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Now, no pleas on his desk

delhi Updated: Apr 05, 2013 00:10 IST
Aloke Tikku

With President Pranab Mukherjee clearing all mercy petitions that started crowding the presidential table since the late 90s, all eyes are now on the Supreme Court which is hearing appeals for mercy on grounds that Mukerjee's predecessors had taken far too long to decide their case.

The Supreme Court is hearing appeals from several death row convicts whose mercy petition was rejected by Rashtrapati Bhavan.

These include Rajiv Gandhi's killers Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan, Devinder Singh Bhullar who was convicted for the 1993 car bombing targeted at Maninderjeet Singh Bitta but killed nine bystanders instead and MN Das of Assam, whose hunger strike forced Pratibha Devisingh Patil to pick up her pen to clear mercy petitions.

Rashtrapati Bhavan had started the trend of holding back approvals to mercy petitions started during KR Narayanan's tenure as President. Narayanan assumed office in July 1997.

His successor AJP Abdul Kalam reluctantly cleared child-rapist and murderer Dhananjoy Chhaterjee's mercy petition in 2004 after a public outcry; Pratibha Patil cleared a few more cases after being nudged by the courts, the government and a death row convict who went on a hunger strike in an Assam jail.

That left about a dozen mercy petitions on the presidential table when Pranab Mukerjee took over in July 2012.

Government sources said only three-four mercy petitions were pending with the home ministry at this stage, including the one filed for Balwant Singh Rajaona, the terrorist who killed Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.