"You give us the time frame for deciding the mercy petitions which are pending before you," the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya told the government adding that this was part of law and order.
The court said that the common man's perception on law and order was formed on the basis of the decision on such matters, adding that the impact of sentence was lost if the decision was taken after a long delay.
As a caution, the court said that the government should not decide the pending mercy petitions in a "hurry".
The court was hearing petitions by two death row convicts - Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and Mahindra Nath Das.
Bhullar challenged the rejection of his mercy petition by the president and sought commutation of his death sentence to life.
Das sought commutation of his death penalty on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his mercy petition by the president.
The court while hearing these petitions expanded the scope of the hearing by calling for the details of all the mercy petitions that were pending before the president and governors in different states.
Making it clear that it was just deciding the question of delay in two cases before it, the court said that it may decide one way or the other but it would impact the other cases also.
The court said that it was not saying anything on the merit or other issues of the mercy petitions pending before the pardoning authorities.
As senior counsel KTS Tulsi appearing for Bhullar drew the attention of the court to the delay in deciding the mercy petition of a woman who killed all the legal heirs of her family in order to get hold of the huge family property, the court observed: "it is troubling us".
Tusli told the court that the woman convict after committing the "horrendous" crime was "unrepentant".
Bhullar was convicted and awarded death sentence for his involvement in a bomb blast at Youth Congress office here in 1993. Bhullar had filed the mercy petition Jan 14, 2003 which was rejected by the president May 25, 2011.
An expelled member of Assam Motor Workers Union, Das April 24, 1996, chopped off a man's head and walked through the streets to a police station, holding the severed head in one hand and blood-stained sword in the other hand. The apex court upheld his death sentence May 14, 1999.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday asked the government to set a time frame for deciding death row convicts' mercy petitions pending before it.
First Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012, 19:22