Apex court starts hearing in mercy petition cases

Questions govt over the rush last year to clear petitions

The Supreme Court on Tuesday commenced hearing on the question whether a convict who has filed a mercy petition was entitled to remission of death sentence on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his plea.

A bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice S J Mukhopadhaya asked Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal how 20 mercy petitions were cleared in a short span last year, after they were pending for several years.

The court sought to know about the scope of the powers of the President under Article 72 of the Constitution from amicus curiae T R Andhyarujina and Ram Jethamalani. 

Rawal told the court he would invoke privilege on some documents that the court had asked him to give to Andhyarujina and Jethamalani, expressing reservations in sharing records of mercy petitions with Jethmalani as he is a Rajya Sabha member associated with a political party.

The court said that it would pass the order when the issue is broached before it. The apex court had on Nov 15, 2011, while hearing the plea by Devender Pal Singh Bhullar sought the details of all the mercy petitions of death row convicts pending before the president and the governors in the states.

Bhullar, who was given capital punishment for a 1993 blast in Delhi which killed nine people, had filed his mercy petition on January 14, 2003 but it was rejected by the president on May 25, 2011. Bhullar has challenged the rejection.

The court had enlarged the scope of its hearing in view of the importance of the issue and the fact that a large number of persons are not in a position to move the court, as has been done by Bhullar.

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