Reacting to news reports that President Pratibha Patil has been to lenient to convicts on death rows, the Rashtrapati Bhavan today issued a clarification that clemency is not granted as per the wishes of the president but on advice from the Central government.
“Some reports have appeared in the media critical of the President’s role in the disposal of mercy petitions. These reports stem from a lack of correct appreciation of the constitutional provisions and the related court judgments in the matter. Article 72 does confer on the President the power to grant clemency,” the clarification issued from the President’s Office said.
“When the President is expected to work as part of the constitutional scheme, the word, President, is an abbreviation for the Central Government,” it said. “The uncharitable comments on the President’s actions to fulfill constitutional obligations to dispose of mercy petitions is unwarranted,” the note said.
Referring to Article 74 of the Constitution, the press comminuque said that the “advice of the Government is binding on the Head of State” and is “not a private act of grace on the part of the President”.
The Supreme Court also clearly lays down this process, it said.
“To say that President acted in haste or played to the gallery while handling mercy petitions is misconstrued,” the note said.
The note also pointed to the need for expediting decisions on mercy petitions referring to a Supreme Court observation stating that “the delays in disposal of mercy petitions may be minimised 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 allegation of non-application of mind in the disposal of mercy petitions is factually incorrect and misleading. The President has disposed clemency petitions only after due examination on receipt of the aid and advice of the Home Minister,” the clarification said.
The note said that Home Minister P Chidambaram recalled 23 backlog cases and gave fresh advice on them to the president. The clarification added that Chidambaram also specifically explained the logic behind each advice.
“In turn, the President, took well considered decisions after having been fully satisfied that the Government has tendered its aid and advice, properly and constitutionally,” the Rashtrapati Bhavan note said.
“A queer pitch has been created as though many brutal criminals have been shown mercy and released. It is common knowledge that all death convicts seeking mercy are those who have committed ghastly and heinous crimes of the ‘rarest of the rare’ category,” it said.
“By the exercise of the power of pardon, the President does not amend, modify or substitute the judicial decisions,” the clarification said while stating that clemency do not wipe out the sanctity of the judicial observation on the convict.
“Capital punishment is an emotive issue on which there is an ongoing debate between abolitionists and retentionists…. Be that as it may, so long death sentence remains a part of our statutes and seeking of clemency by a condemned prisoner or on his behalf is constitutionally ordained, the President is duty bound to discharge this obligation,” it said.