“The powers of a court of law in a criminal trial and subsequent appeal right up to this court and that of the president/governor under Article 72/161 operate in totally different arenas and the nature of these two powers are also different from each other,” a Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said.
The apex court said that it is a judicial function to pronounce anyone guilty or to decide his or her innocence in a criminal trial and it was “within exclusive domain of a court of competent jurisdiction.”
The governor’s power to grant pardon on the other hand was an “independent” exercise of an executive function, it said.
The bench made these observations while setting aside an order of governor to grant pardon to three men, awarded life term, in a murder case in Punjab.
It noted that the accused persons had filed an appeal against their conviction in the Punjab and Haryana High Court before the governor could pronounce them innocent.
The governor’s order of remission — passed on an inference that the accused was not involved in the murder and false witnesses had been produced — was bad, the court stated, directing that the matter be remanded back to the governor for reconsideration.