Amid raging debate over inordinate delay in deciding mercy petitions, the Supreme Court has sought to know why such pleas can't be decided in a time-bound manner.
Acting on a petition filed by an NGO, a bench headed by justice B Sudershan Reddy on Wednesday issued notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs asking it to file its response in four weeks as to why mercy petitions should not be disposed of in a definite time frame.
Twenty-eight mercy petitions, including that of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru, were pending and one of them was pending for 11 years, the NGO said citing a government statement. The SC is already seized of a petition filed by death row convict Punjab militant Devender Pal Singh Bhullar for reducing his sentence to life term on the ground that the President has not decided his mercy plea since December 2002. But after the SC issued a notice on Bhullar's petition, the President rejected his mercy plea.
“The power is not merely a privilege but a matter of performance of official duty. The power has to be exercised not only for the benefit of the convict but also for the welfare of the people who may insist on the performance of the duty and, therefore, the discretion has to be exercised on public considerations alone.”
A pernicious impression “seems to be growing in the minds of the public that whatever the courts may decide one can always turn to the executive for defeating the verdict by resorting to delaying tactics as delay defeats justice,” the petitioner said.