In a move that could give many death row convicts a fresh lease of life, Home Minister P Chidambaram will take a “fresh look” at the 26 mercy petitions pending before President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
The Home Ministry had rejected these pleas over a period of time and forwarded them to Rashtrapati Bhavan for issue of formal orders sealing the fate of the convicts.
“We have decided that we will take them up, one by one,” the home minister said on Wednesday. Chidambaram expects to take an average of three to four weeks on each case.
If the ministry sticks to the schedule, the government might take two years to clear the backlog before it takes a call on Parliament attack accused, Afzal Guru’s petition.
The first case to land on Chidambaram’s table relates to R Govindaswami from Tamil Nadu, convicted of killing five people. His petition has been pending with the Presidential office since April 1998.
But Rashtrapati Bhavan has been uneasy at signing the rejection orders.
During his five-year term as president, APJ Abdul Kalam had rejected only one petition — a private security guard in Kolkata convicted of rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl — and had put others on hold.
By the time Patil assumed office, she had nearly two dozen petitions — recommended for rejection by the home ministry — waiting for her signatures. Officials said she, understandably, had not signed any of them.
Home ministry officials suggested Chidambaram’s decision was grounded in the fact that a new government should not be necessarily bound by the decisions of a previous one.
Chinese employees not on the run
Chidambaram downplayed the decision to issue lookout notices against Chinese employees working at Balco’s power plant in Chhattisgarh, saying the notices were aimed to help the inquiry authority to identify the officials who would be investigated.