If the home ministry stays on course with the 'no mercy for terrorists' principle, the Centre is unlikely to act on the resolution of the Tamil Nadu assembly recommending mercy for Rajiv Gandhi's killers.
Chidambaram had laid down the principle in his May 13 communication to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil this year when he recommended rejecting the mercy plea of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, member of terror outfit, Khalistan Liberation Force.
Bhullar was sentenced to the gallows for blowing up a car laden outside the Indian Youth Congress office in Delhi in 1993. The then IYC chief MS Bitta survived the attack but 9 others weren't as lucky.
"Cases of terrorism do not deserve any mercy or compassion… I would, therefore recommend that the sentence of death be confirmed," the home ministry wrote in its note to the President, seeking rejection of Bhullar's plea.
Bhullar's plea was the first mercy petition of a terrorist handled by Chidambaram after he took over home ministry in 2009.
Over the next few months, he rejected mercy pleas of Mohd Afzal Guru, convicted for the 2001 Parliament attack case and the three death row convicts in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case - Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.
Like Rajiv Gandhi's killers, he too has support of Punjab politicians, right from chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh. The open support for terrorists on death row prompted Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah to tweet on Wednesday how the country would react if the J&K assembly passed a resolution for mercy to Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri.
Government sources said no mercy principle in terror cases guided the decision on the assembly resolution recommending clemency for Rajiv's killers.
RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal, who received Rashtrapati Bhavan files on mercy pleas under the RTI, said such controversies on religious and regional lines could be avoided if decisions on mercy petitions are taken within a reasonable period, say three months. "The delay not only dilutes the fear of law but is also torturous for those sentenced to death," Agarwal said.