President Pratibha Patil seems to be the most merciful of all presidents during the last three decades. She has commuted death sentences of 23 petitioners to life imprisonment, which is over 90% of the total pardons granted since 1981.
On February 9, she accepted the clemency petition of Sushil Murmu, pending since 2004, who was convicted for giving 'bali' (sacrifice) of a nine-year-old-boy in Jharkhand for his own prosperity, an RTI response from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
It said that since 1981, 91 convicts sought commutation of their death sentences to life imprisonment. Of these, 31 petitions were accepted out of which 23 were during her tenure.
According to the reply provided to applicant Subhash Agrawal, 18 mercy petitions were still pending before the President.
Patil, however, has rejected the petitions of five individuals, which include Rajiv Gandhi's three killers and Davinder Pal Singh and Mahendra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered Harakanta Das, the then secretary of the Guwahati Truck Drivers Association.
Murmu's sentence, however, was commuted even though his crime was termed by the Supreme Court as "an illustrative and most exemplary case to be treated as the 'rarest of rare cases' in which death is and should be the rule, with no exception whatsoever."