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Decision on Afzal Guru’s mercy plea may take two years

The decision on the hanging of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru would have to wait for at least two years....

Amitabh Sinha & Maneesh Chhibbernew Delhi |
June 30, 2009 9:02:51 am

The decision on the hanging of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru would have to wait for at least two years with the government deciding to clear one mercy petition every month in chronological order.

The mercy petition of Afzal Guru,who has been awarded the death sentence by the Supreme Court in the 2001 Parliament attack case,is the 22nd on the list of 28 cases pending before the government of India.

Home Minister P Chidambaram is believed to have asked his officers to put up one case to him each month on which he will take a decision and send the government’s recommendation to President Pratibha Patil.

Chidambaram is already said to have conveyed the government’s recommendation to the President this month on the first case on the list.

The one recommendation per month rule,however,would not necessarily result in one mercy petition getting accepted or rejected every month as the President was entitled to take as much time as she desires to either accept or reject the government’s recommendation.

But by deciding to dispose of one case every month,Chidambaram has put a time frame on the fate of Afzal Guru,whose death sentence has been the cause of a bitter war of words between political parties with the Opposition accusing the government of withholding a decision deliberately in order to appease the Muslim community.

Afzal Guru was awarded the death sentence for his role in the December 13,2001 attack on Parliament by a trial court on December 18,2002. The decision was upheld by the Delhi High Court on October 29,2003 and confirmed by the Supreme Court on August 4,2005. Following the Supreme Court order,the trial court had directed that Afzal Guru be put to death on October 20,2006. The sentence could not be carried out because his wife Tabassum moved a mercy petition to the President.

That mercy petition is pending since 2006. It continues to be under examination of the Home Ministry which is still awaiting the comments of the Delhi Government in this regard.

While Afzal Guru is the most publicised case on the list,there are other high-profile convicts as well. Eighth on the list is the mercy petition of Murugan,Shanthan and Perarivalan who have been convicted for their role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The death sentence of Murugan’s wife,Nalini,was commuted to life-term by former president K R Narayanan.

India last carried out a death sentence in 2004 when Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged to death for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Hetal Parekh in 1990. His mercy petition was rejected by former president A P J Abdul Kalam. Incidentally,this was the only mercy petition that was decided,either way,by Kalam. His predecessor K R Narayanan did not decide on even a single mercy petition.

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