After Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the decision of Bombay High Court on the death sentence for 2008 Mumbai terror attack convict and Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab, the focus now moves towards his last right of appeal before the President for mercy and the role of Ministry of Home Affairs in reviewing such petitions. Though Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said if Kasab files mercy plea, Government will ensure to dispose it of in minimum time, Information accessed through an RTI by Subhash Chandra Agrawal disputes the Home Minister’s claim.
“There is no time limit prescribed under the Constitution to exercise the power under Article 72 of the Constitution. Presently there is neither any proposal to prescribe a time limit for disposal of mercy petition under Article 72 of the Constitution, nor for abolition of death sentence,” RTI reply dated August 23 said.
It also added that during 2009-2012, Ministry of Home Affairs recalled 26 files pertaining to the terms of the former presidents and reviewed them before re-submitting them with a fresh advice for due consideration of the President. Most of the cases of death sentence were commuted to life imprisonment by former president Pratibha Patil. The mercy petitions of Laliya Doom and Shiv Lal were recalled by the Home Ministry in September 2011 and after reviewing the files they were re-submitted to the President’s secretariat. A decision was taken by former president Pratibha Patil on June 2, 2012, commuting death sentence for life imprisonment. File of Sonia and Sanjeev was also recalled by the ministry in January this year but no decision on their mercy petition was taken by the president.
At the moment 11 mercy petitions are pending before President Pranab Mukherjee. Among them, mercy petition of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru is on the top of the list. Guru was ordered to be hanged in 2006, but his wife filed the mercy petition and a decision is awaited since. Supreme Court in April had observed in certain recent cases that delays in disposal of mercy petitions may be minimized and that the condemned prisoners have a very pertinent right in insisting that a decision in the matter be taken within a reasonable time.
The information provided along with the list of 26 mercy petitions reviewed by the Home Ministry says that all cases were well examined by the ministry spelling out specific reasons for a decision and president took well- considered decisions after having been fully satisfied that the Government has tendered its aid and advice, properly and constitutionally.