Between 2002 and 2007, when he was the President of India, A P J Abdul Kalam decided only two mercy petitions out of the 28 petitions that came before him.
In August 2004, he rejected the mercy pleas filed by the wife and mother of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who had raped and murdered a young girl in her apartment.
In October 2006, Kalam accepted the mercy petitions filed on behalf of death row convict Kheraj Ram, convicted for murdering his wife, two children and his brother-in-law in a village in Rajasthan.
When he demitted office, Kalam left behind over two dozen mercy petitions, including that of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. In a letter to the Law Commission of India, Kalam expressed his views against death penalty.
Quoting from his book Turning Points: A Journey Through Challenges, Kalam wrote, “One of the more difficult tasks for me as President was to decide on the issue of confirming capital punishment awarded by the courts after exhausting all processes of appeals. As a substantial number of cases have been pending in Rashtrapati Bhavan for many years, it is one inherited task that no President would feel happy about.”
More importantly, Kalam referred to a study that he had got done to obtain a “normal citizen’s point of view in terms of crime, intensity of crime and the social and financial status of individuals who were convicted and awarded capital punishment”.
“This study revealed to my surprise that almost all the cases which were pending had a social and economic bias. This gave me an impression that we were punishing the person who was least involved in the enmity and who did not have a direct motive for committing the crime,” he wrote.
He expressed the opinion that courts hearing death cases should alert the law enforcing agencies “to intelligently find out the source of sustenance of the individual who is being punished and that of his family”.
“This kind of analysis may lead to the real person and the motive which has led to the crime. We are all the creation of God. I am not sure a human system of a human being is competent to take away a life based on artificial and created evidence,” he opined.