NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to file details of the 18 mercy petitions that were pending before it. This included the petition of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
A Bench comprising Justice G S Singhvi and Justice S J Mukhopadhaya asked senior counsel Ram Jethmalani to file written submissions on whether the President should objectively apply her mind while deciding these mercy petitions.
The Bench issued this direction as it felt that the role of the State was advisory and the final verdict was that of the President.
These directions were passed when the Bench was dealing with the appeal filed by Devender Singh Bhullar, who is a death convict, challenging the delay in the disposal of his mercy petition by the President.
The Bench asked Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval to produce the files with regard to the 18 death row convicts.
These mercy petitions have been pending with the government for the last one to seven years.
Senior counsel K T S Tulsi, appearing for Bhullar, contended that between 1997 and 2011, the President has disposed of 32 mercy petitions, 13 of which were disposed of after a 10-year period. He further told the Bench that 14 other petitions were disposed of after a delay of four to 10 years.
The remaining petitions were disposed of between one and four years.
Earlier, Jethmalani said that there should not be even a day’s delay in disposing of the mercy petitions of the convicts as it amounted to violation of the persons’ right to liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Section 302 of the IPC prescribed a maximum sentence of death, but delay in execution of the death sentence or disposal of the mercy petition amounted to imposing additional punishment on the convict, he further contended. To this, the Bench said that a convict went through the judicial process before his or her conviction for a period spread over 15 years until the sentence attained finality.