New Delhi: The mercy petition for Afzal Guru, convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the Parliament House attack, has not yet been forwarded to President Pratibha Patil, Home Minister P. Chidambaram disclosed here Wednesday.
In reply to a question by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader S.S. Ahluwalia in the Rajya Sabha, Chidambaram said 23 of the 25 mercy petitions with the home ministry have been forwarded to the President.
Afzal Guru, whose petition stands at number 18 in the list, however, is not one of those forwarded. The case was "under examination".
Replying to supplementaries, the minister said there was no delay on the part of the home ministry and a new procedure was being followed in forwarding the case to the president.
"There is no delay from Home Ministry, I am in no position to comment on the president`s part," Chidambaram said.
"I am following a particular procedure. The mercy petitions, according to the date of sentence and date of filing the mercy plea, are being forwarded to the President."
The Home Minister said he could not answer for the delays before he took over in December 2008.
"In view of the procedure I am now following, it is likely to be executed," he said.
"There were 14 mercy petitions send to the president from April 1998 to May 2004. From May 2004 to November 2008, 14 more cases came. Of these, decision was taken on two," he said.
The home minister added that during United Progressive Alliance (UPA) I regime, the government could not pay attention to such issues because of being "preoccupied with a number of issues".
The issue has been taken up repeatedly by the BJP that has questioned the delay in Afzal Guru`s hanging.
Pointing out that the mercy petition for Afzal Guru was filed on Oct 3, 2006, Ahluwalia asked: "Since then, 15 reminders were sent and then lieutenant governor of Delhi sent his comments in June 2010. Why has action not been taken?"
Replying to a question on whether the president should have such powers, Chidambaram said there was no reason why the process should be changed.
"The law is clear. I see no reason to make any changes. This is an exercise of power by the highest functionary," he said.
Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi alleged that the government was delaying the hanging of Afzal Guru as he belonged to the minority community. Taking strong exception, the home minister said religion, caste or race were not a consideration for a mercy petition and called the intervention unparliamentary.
"We deeply regret the intervention made, it was unparliamentary. We are not looking at caste, religion or race and will treat each without fear or favour. without looking at religion," the Home Minister added.
Afzal Guru was found guilty of plotting the Dec 13, 2001, Parliament House attack, in which nine people were killed, and was sentenced to death in 2002. The Delhi High Court confirmed the death penalty in 2003.