Process mercy petitions fast, says SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government to process mercy petitions of death row convicts within reasonable time in order to help the President or the governor to arrive at the decision at the earliest.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam noted that the provisions relating to grant of clemency provided a glimmer of hope to the condemned prisoners as well as to their family members, who wanted early disposal of their petitions.

“The clemency procedure under Article 72/161 provides a ray of hope to the condemned prisoners and his family members for commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment and, therefore, the executive should step up and exercise its time-honoured tradition of clemency power guaranteed in the Constitution one-way or the other within a reasonable time,” the bench said.

“The fact that no time limit is prescribed to the President/governor for disposal of the mercy petition should compel the government to work in a more systematised manner to repose the confidence of the people in the institution of democracy,” the bench added.

While commuting death penalty of three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh said, “We are confident that the mercy petitions filed under Article 72/161 can be disposed of at a much faster pace than what is adopted now, if the due procedure prescribed by law is followed in verbatim.” The court also clarified that the verdict did not mean that it had gone into the merits of the decision taken by the President in which their mercy petition was rejected on August 12, 2011, after a delay of more than 11 years.

“It is definitely not a pleasure for this court to interfere in the Constitutional power vested under Article 72/161 of the Constitution and, therefore, we implore upon the government to render its advice to the President within a reasonable time so that the President is in a position to arrive at a decision at the earliest,” the court said.

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