President Pranab Mukherjee reportedly turned down two mercy petitions last month bringing the total number of mercy pleas rejected by him to 30, reported Times of India. Both the cases were of rape and murder. While one case was that of a rape and murder of a four-year-old girl in Indore by three men in 2012, the other was the gangrape and murder of a techie by a cab driver and his accomplice in Pune. Mukherjee’s predecessor Pratibha Patil had accepted mercy pleas of 30 death row convicts.
Under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution, a President can grant pardon, and suspend, remit or commute a sentence of death. The President is however required to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers. Under the existing rules, the view of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is taken as the view of the Cabinet and is later forwarded to the President in writing. The President can then make a decision.
The issue has been dealt with differently by different presidents. While APJ Abdul Kalam decided on only two of the two dozen mercy petitions forwarded to him, his predecessor, K R Narayanan did not decide on a single mercy petition during his 1997-2002 tenure.
According to information released by the government under the RTI Act, of the 77 mercy pleas decided by Presidents between 1991 and 2010, 69 were rejected. Only 10 per cent of those who sought mercy were spared the gallows. Till date, R Venkataraman (1987-1992) holds the record for rejecting the maximum number of mercy petitions — 44.