Afzal death sentence hangs fire

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Monday denied that the Union Home Ministry has written to her government and asked it to explain what is it doing about the mercy petition of Afzal Guru. The convict is in Delhi’s Tihar jail for his role in the December 13, 2001, attack on Parliament. Guru’s mercy petition is 27th on the list of death convicts.

The matter has been raised by the Home Ministry close on the heels of Mumbai terror strike convict Ajmal Kasab also being awarded death penalty by a special Mumbai court.
“I have not received any letter (from the Home Ministry). Maybe the Home Department (of the Delhi government received it),” the Delhi chief minister said when quizzed about the Home Ministry’s communication on Guru which was sent to her a week before the verdict on Kasab came. Dikshit is in charge of the Home Department.

The Centre has apparently pulled up the Delhi government for sitting over the file of Parliament attacker’s mercy petition. The Home Ministry has sent a letter asking why it has been sitting over the file since 2006.

Interestingly, there is no time limit for disposing of the mercy petition by the President. The Delhi government has also taken excuse that there was no time limit for replying to the Home Ministry.

According to President’s secretariat, only three mercy petitions were disposed of by the President after January 1, 2004, in which one such convict Dhananjay Chatterjee was hanged in Kolkata in August 2004. That was the last hanging.

The BJP has been raising the pitch on the issue of hanging Guru time and again forcing the government to go on the back foot. The award of capital punishment to Kasab apparently added pressure on the Centre with the Opposition accusing it of soft peddling on the issue of terrorism.

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