Eight convicts on death row in two separate cases of murder have received the mercy of President Pratibha Patil,who commuted their sentence to life imprisonment on June 15.
Patils decision leaves a list of 21 more pending mercy petitions of a total of 24,three of which have been returned to the Ministry of Home Affairs on request.
The President has so far only cleared those mercy petitions wherein the Home Ministry has advised the commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment. She still has to give her decision in cases where the Home Ministrys opinion has been to reject the mercy petition and stick to death sentence for the convicts.
Of the two cases,in which the President commuted the sentence,one is related to the killing of five persons,including a 10-year-old boy. Shyam Manohar along with Sheo Ram,Prakash,Suresh,Ravinder and Harish from Uttar Pradesh were given death penalty in October 1997 in this case.
The murders took place to avenge the killing of brother of one of the convicts. The Supreme Court had in 1997 upheld the death penalty awarded to them by the High Court. The convicts then filed a mercy petition before the President. The file was re-submitted to Presidents Secretariat on February 23,2010.
The second case is that of Dharmendra Kumar and Narendra Yadav,also from UP,who were convicted of killing five members of a family. In this case,the trial court had awarded the death sentence to the duo in 1995 but it was not upheld by the High Court. In 1999,the Supreme Court reversed the High Court verdict.
The mercy petition was filed by the duo in 1999 and was re-submitted to Presidents Secretariat in March 2010. The above information is part of an RTI reply dated June 23 to an application filed by Subhash Chandra Agrawal with the Presidents Secretariat.
The Presidents Secretariat said that the longest pending mercy petition with the President is that of 82-year-old Piara Singh and his three sons,one of whom,Sarabjit Singh,is aged 65. All were convicted of murder and various offences under the Arms Act and are known to be lodged at Amritsar jail.
This case was returned to the MHA on May 13,2010 for further examination,the RTI reply said,adding that two other mercy petitions were similarly returned in 2005.
The RTI clarifies that there is no time-limit as such to decide on a mercy petition.
Before the June 15,2010 grant of mercy in the two cases,77 petitions had been decided by Presidents during the past three decades out of which in only 10 cases the sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment.