Date: 10 December 2014

ACHR calls for establishment of “Advisory Committee on Mercy Petitions”

New Delhi: On the occasion of the Human Rights Day, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) called for the establishment of “Advisory Committee on Mercy Petitions” consisting of independent and eminent persons for vetting the advices of the Ministry of Home Affairs to the President of India with respect to the rejection of mercy pleas. ACHR called for the establishment of an “Advisory Committee on Mercy Petitions” given the current pratice of violations of the guidelines on the mercy pleas adopted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, laws based on stare decisis, natural justice, equality and past precedents set by the former Presidents in cases of similar facts and circumstances while advising the President. 

Citing specific cases, Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected mercy pleas of mentally unfit death row convicts Sundar Singh on 31.03.2013 and Maganlal Barela on 16.07.2013 in clear violation of the Guidelines of Mercy Pleas of the Ministry of Home Affairs relating to prohibition on execution of mentally unfit death row convicts. 

Though Rule V of the Mercy Petition Rules states that all the records of the case be sent along with the mercy plea for examing clemency, President Mukherjee had rejected the mercy plea of Suresh and Ramji nof Uttar Pradesh on 08.02.2013 and Praveen Kumar of Karnataka on 26.03.2013 without the judgements of the trial courts which were respectively in Hindi and Kanada. The President's office had requested for translated versions of these trial court judgements but the mercy petitions were rejected before receiving the translation of these judgements.

The President of India should ideally be the first person to ensure respect for the stare decisis i.e. law established by previous decisions of the superior courts. However, President Mukherjee has consistently demonstrated the lack of respect for stare decisis and had rejected mercy pleas such as of Saibanna Ningappa Natikar on 04.01.2013 despite the Supreme Court declaring Saibanna’s case as per incuriam by judgement dated 13.09.2009 and the same being brought to his notice by 14 former judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. 

Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that it had filed a mercy petition with President Mukherjee on 6 February 2014 to commute the death sentence of Holiram Bordoloi of Assam, among others, on the ground of unexplained and inordinate delay as enunciated by the Supreme Court’s judgement in Shatrughan Chauhan & Anr Vs. Union of India & Others. Vide Shatrughan Chauhan judgment, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences on 15 death-row convicts to life imprisonment, inter alia, on the ground of delay ranging from six and half years to twelve and half years. Since Bordoloi filed the mercy plea in 2005 and his mercy plea was not considered for the last eight years without any reason, he deserved commutation as per the Shatrughan Chauhan judgment. However, President Mukherjee hurriedly rejected Bordoloi's mercy plea on 05.07.2014 without considering the applicability of the Shatrughan Chauhan judgment and also without responding to the notice of the National Human Rights Commission to explain the inordinate delay in considering the mercy plea of Bordoloi.

A condemned prisoner is equally entitled as other condemned prisoners to the right to equality and non-discrimination even during the processing of mercy petition, including disposal and beyond. Yet, President Mukherjee had picked up the mercy pleas of Ajmal Kasab and Mohd. Afzal Guru out of the queue, rejected the same and they were hanged ahead of the other condemned prisoners.

ACHR also called for revising the existing broad guidelines of the MHA to consider clemency and adoption of “Guidelines for Consideration of Mercy Pleas by the Governors of the States and the President of India”. [Ends]