President Ram Nath Kovind recently rejected a mercy petition, his first, moved by Jagat Rai of Bihar who has been sentenced to death for killing six members of a family over a buffalo theft. Between 1950 and 1982, a period that saw six Presidents, only one mercy petition was rejected. During 1982-97, three Presidents rejected 93 mercy petitions and commuted seven sentences. No pleas were decided during the tenure of President K R Narayanan (1997-2002), after which A P J Abdul Kalam (2002-2007) decided on two pleas, rejecting one and granting the other. Pratibha Patil (2007-2012) commuted 34 mercy pleas and rejected five. Pranab Mukherjee (2012-17), on the other hand, rejected 31 of the 33 mercy pleas he decided.
According to figures compiled until the end of 2015 by the National Crime Records Bureau, 325 convicts including 10 women awarded capital punishment were lodged in various jails of the country. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of such convicts (68), followed by Maharashtra (41), Madhya Pradesh (38), Bihar (30) and Karnataka (22). One convict (Yakub Memon) was executed in 2015. That year alone, 101 prisoners were awarded the death sentence while the sentences of 49 convicts were commuted to life imprisonment.
Between 2000 and 2012, Indian courts passed 1,677 death sentences, according to NCRB data. During 2004-12, death sentences were passed in 1,178 murder cases, out of 1,80,439 cases in which there were convictions. —Rahul Tripathi
Forest cover: Mizoram densest, MP has largest by area
India’s forest cover stood at 21.34% in 2015, an increase from 20.05% in 2009, according to the ‘Status of Environment Report, India 2015’, released by Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan Monday. Together, forest and tree cover in 2015 constituted about 24.16% of the country’s geographical area, with the forest cover of 21.34% translating into 7,01,673 sq km. In percentage terms, Mizoram (89%) has the densest forest cover among the states and Union Territories. While the Northeast states account for one-fourth of the country’s forest cover, Assam’s 35% was the lowest in the list of 15 states and Union Territories that had more than 33% forest cover, the report said. In terms of area, Madhya Pradesh had the largest forest cover at 72,462 sq km. —PTI
This Word Means: PYROCLASTIC FLOWS
What is coming out of a Central American volcano; why is this eruption different from that of Kilauea?
News reports Monday on the explosion of the Volcan de Fuego — Volcano of Fire — in Guatemala said at least 25 people had been killed and 20 injured by “pyroclastic flows”. Several volcanologists, including Dr Janine Krippner of Concord University, West Virginia, underlined that pyroclastic flows were different from the so-called “rivers of lava” that are frequently associated with volcanic eruptions. Volcan de Fuego is in fact, currently far more dangerous that Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island, whose ongoing eruption is now four weeks old, and has gone on for longer than that volcano’s 1955 and 1924 activities, with lava continuing to ooze from volcanic fissures.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) describes a pyroclastic flow as a “hot (typically >800 °C), chaotic mixture of rock fragments, gas, and ash that travels rapidly (tens of metres per second) away from a volcanic vent or collapsing flow front”. Dr Krippner was quoted as saying that “pyroclastic flows are not like rivers of lava at all”, and were “much faster and… (could) engulf valleys rapidly”. According to USGS, pyroclastic flows “can engulf victims within seconds. Escape on foot or by vehicle is nearly impossible, and they can incinerate nearly anything in their path. People outside the destroyed area can suffer burn injuries or asphyxia from inhaling hot toxic gasses and ash. Pyroclastic flows are behind many of the deadliest eruptions on record”.— ENS