No written procedure to deal with mercy petition: home ministry

August 9th, 2008 - 6:53 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) The government has no written procedure to deal with the mercy pleas of prisoners awaiting the gallows, the union home ministry has told the Central Information Commission (CIC). Home ministry Joint Secretary Shashi Bhushan gave this information to the Commission during the hearing of a plea by a Mumbai resident seeking to know if the government has any time frame and prescribed procedure for the president to take a decision on mercy petitions by condemned prisoners.

“There is no written procedure followed for examining petitions under Article 72 (of the Constitution, dealing with the president’s power to grant pardon or to suspend, remit and commute death sentences to a condemned prisoner), which could be provided to the appellant,” the official told the Commission.

Mumbai resident Vats Raj had demanded the information saying that “the procedure for examining mercy petitions by the Ministry of Home Affairs for sending recommendations to the President without delays is of official importance”.

The procedure “involves maintaining a fine balance between an individual’s life on the one hand and the imperative need to award appropriate punishment for heinous crimes considering the society’s sensitivities towards such crimes on the other”, Raj added in his petition.

He also wanted to know if the government is considering any proposal to review and revamp the procedure to speed up the process of dealing with mercy petitions.

He sought information on whether the home ministry has done any detailed study or analysis of different reasons for the average of seven years taken in deciding the mercy pleas of condemned prisoners.

To both his queries, the ministry denied in the negative.

In its reply to Raj, the ministry had earlier said that it was examining the mercy pleas of only two condemned prisoners — of Mohammad Afzal of Delhi, awarded death sentence for his role in the December 2001 terror attack on parliament, and another prisoner Gurmeet Singh of Uttar Pradesh.

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