Former home secretary GK Pillai, who spent months trying to persuade Rashtrapati Bhavan to clear mercy petitions, expects President-elect Pranab Mukherjee to expeditiously decide on the petitions 'either way'.
Pillai had played a key role in nudging President Pratibha Patil's office to clear files relating to mercy petitions during 2009-2010.
He demitted office last year, days before the home ministry recommended to the President to reject the mercy plea of Afzal Guru, who was charged with 2001 Parliament attack.
In an interview to CNN-IBN, Mukherjee said he will study the clemency plea after assuming office.
"I think he (Mukherjee) is someone who will take a decision 'either way'," said Pillai, raising hopes that the President-elect would reverse the practice set by his three predecessors - KR Narayanan, APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil -of putting aside cases where the government recommended rejection of mercy pleas.
In view of the reluctance of the President to clear such files, the UPA government had reversed its recommendation to reject the mercy plea on the condition that the death-row convict would spend his entire life in jail.
Home Minister P Chidambaram had, however, decided that convicts in terror cases should not be granted this leniency, a principle that guided his recommendation to reject Guru and DPS Bhullar's mercy plea.
Pillai suggested it might be a good idea for Parliament to debate on the continuation of death penalty, saying imprisonment for the rest of the life could be introduced as a new punishment in the penal code.
There will be a risk attached to imprisonment for life. Accomplices of the convict may try to take hostages - case in point being the hijacking of IC-814 in 1999, which led to the release of terrorists.