Ministry in spot over mercy plea

SC takes on Chidambaram for keeping ex-prez in dark

Ministry in spot over mercy plea

An embarrassed Union Home ministry on Friday attempted to clarify that former President Pratibha Devising Patil was not kept in dark about her predecessor accepting the mercy petition of a death row convict from Assam.

The ministry sources did not rule out the possibility of filing an appeal in the Supeme Court to get rid of a portion of the judgment that holds the then minister and the government in bad light.

The elucidation came after the Supreme Court virtually criticised former home minister P Chidambaram for holding back from President Pratibha Patil, the recommendation of her predecessor A P J Abdul Kalam who, in 2005, had accepted from Mahendra Nath Das requesting that his capital punishment be commuted to life, given the inordinate delay in deciding his fate.

An apex court Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya had recorded this lack of communication from the home ministry in his judgment reducing Das’ death sentence to life term.

The home ministry, in a statement issued on Friday, said the entire file of death row convict Das, including the minutes recorded by the previous President, were placed before the then President Pratibha Patil for her consideration.

The ministry’s statement said the considered division prepares a note on receiving a mercy petition which is submitted by the joint secretary to additional secretary before the home secretary  hands it over to the minister for the final nod.

A basic note was prepared in the ministry on Das’ mercy plea. Paragraph 10 of the note contained the view recorded by Kalam which was accepting his request for pardon. Other than that, the ministry also said that the then joint secretary in his note to the home minister too listed Kalam’s recommendation. Lastly, Home minister recorded his advise to the President on October 12, 2010.

"Thereafter, a summary for the President was prepared and submitted to the President on October 18, 2010. President Patil gave her decision on May 8, 2011.

The entire file, including the minutes recorded by the previous President, were placed before the then President Pratibha Patil for her consideration, the home ministry statement said. The ministry is contemplating to file an appeal to ‘get the record straight’ as all the facts were placed before the apex court.

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