The Supreme Court on Tuesday called for the original files of 18 mercy petitions, including that of the 2001 Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru, pending before the president for conversion of the death penalty to a life term.
An apex court bench of justice GS Singhvi and justice SJ Mukhopadhaya directed the additional solicitor General Harin Raval to place the files before it for its perusal following the submissions made by amicus curiae Ram Jethmalani and senior counsel KTS Tulsi.
Jethmalani and Tulsi told the court that it should suo motu issue notice to the government to explain the delay in the disposal of the mercy petitions.
The judges told the counsel that they will peruse the files and issue notice if they were not satisfied about the reason for the delay.
Tulsi appeared for Devender Pal Singh Bhullar who is on death row.
Bhullar was convicted and awarded death sentence for his involvement in a bomb blast at Youth Congress office in 1993. Bhullar filed the mercy petition on January 14, 2003 which was rejected by the president on May 25, 2011.
The court was examining the question whether a convict who had filed a mercy petition was entitled to commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his mercy petition.
The judges had expanded the scope of the hearing by seeking the details of all mercy petitions while hearing a plea by Bhullar challenging the rejection of his mercy petition.
The court earlier asked if the delays by the government in deciding a mercy petition was not a violation of the philosophy of the constitution.
Raval justified the delays by the executive, adding that there were also judicial delays.
The court said that merely because there were judicial delays, it did not justify that the executive took a long time in deciding the mercy petitions.
Court asked Jethmalani to address this question.