17 mercy petitions pending before President

Mercy petitions of 17 people on death row are pending before President Pratibha Patil, a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed.

New Delhi: Mercy petitions of 17 people on death row are pending before President Pratibha Patil, a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed.

Most of the pleas are from those convicted of murder or rape.

In reply to information sought under the RTI Act by Subhash Chandra Agarwal, the President`s Secretariat said the oldest petition was from 2005, while six mercy petitions were submitted to her office in 2011 alone.
The petition of Sushil Murmu from Jharkhand, who was convicted of killing a nine-year-old child for a religious ritual, has been pending since 2005. Another case is of Jafar Ali, who is facing a death penalty for murdering his wife and daughters. He applied for the president`s mercy Aug 21, 2006.

Gurmeet Singh submitted his mercy petition Dec 11, 2009, after he was held guilty of murdering 13 of his family members.

Meanwhile, the reply also said that the president had commuted 10 to life imprisonment following mercy petitions. In 2009 alone, death sentences of seven convicts had been commuted to life imprisonment.

However in May, President Patil rejected the mercy plea of Mahendra Nath Das alias Govinda Das.
Das had severed the head of 68-year-old Harakanta Das, secretary of the Guwahati Truck Drivers Association, in Guwahati in 1996. He was sentenced to death by a sessions court in 1997.

Another mercy plea rejected by the president was of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who has been given the death penalty in a 1993 car bombing case in New Delhi.

Bhullar, a former Khalistan Commando Force militant, was given the death penalty in 2001 by a Delhi court under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA).

Despite the hue and cry from several political parties and religious groups, the president`s office has not received any application for reconsidering Bhullar`s mercy plea.

Bhullar`s mercy petition was rejected May 8, 2011.

However, the reply to the RTI application did not mention the mercy petition filed by Afzal Guru, who was awarded death sentence in the December 2001 attack on parliament, as it has not yet been forwarded to the president.

Earlier, in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha during the budget session in February, the home ministry had said that Afzal Guru`s petition has not been forwarded to the president and his case was "under examination".

Afzal Guru was found guilty of plotting the Dec 13, 2001, parliament attack, in which nine people were killed. He was sentenced to death in 2002, while the Delhi High Court confirmed the penalty in 2003.

The last execution in India was carried out in Kolkata in August 2004, when Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged for raping and killing a school girl.

Mercy petitions can be sent to either the president`s office or the home ministry. According to Section 72 of the Indian Constitution, there is no stipulated time limit for the president to consider the petitions.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam decided only two mercy petitions - in 2004, he rejected the plea of rape convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee, and in 2006 he commuted convict Kheraj Ram`s death penalty to life imprisonment.

President K.R. Narayanan did not clear any mercy petition in his tenure.


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