The Centre is planning to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court (SC) against its order to commute to life term the death penalty of 15 convicts on grounds of delay in disposal of their mercy petitions by the President. A review petition filed on the subject was dismissed by the apex court last week.
The Centre wants to oppose the SC order as it is of the opinion that the apex court’s decision is tantamount to one constitutional body challenging the authority of another — the President of India.
“We have decided to move a curative petition. We are in the process of building a stronger case as the government cannot be seen as going soft on cases relating to terror and heinous crimes. Moreover, the law is silent on grounds of delay. It does not specifically say the death sentence would be commuted to life term if there is a delay from the President’s office,” said a senior Home Ministry official.
Dismissing the Centre’s review petition on March 12, the SC had said it found no merit in it. It had also rejected the government’s request to hear it in an open court.
A three-judge Bench had passed an order on January 21 commuting the death penalty.
The Centre, in its review petition, said the case ought to have been heard by a minimum of five judges as it involved a substantial question of constitutional law.
“The President is the sovereign authority and it is in the prerogative of his office to take the desired time in deciding the mercy pleas of prisoners on death row. The SC order will have a cascading effect on similar cases, including the one involving commutation of death sentence of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi,” said the official.