The clemency plea for Mohammed Afzal Guru, sentenced to death for the 2001 attack on Parliament, is among two dozen such petitions pending with the Union home ministry with the oldest being that of four men from Punjab, who have been facing execution since 1992.
There is no timeframe for deciding on these petitions, said a home ministry official. It had taken authorities considerable time to decide on a clemency plea for Dhananjoy Chatterjee, the last person to be hanged on August 14, 2004, he pointed out.
Chatterjee had filed his mercy petition some years before the government advised the President to not grant clemency to him.
Though there is no official data on how many death sentences have been carried out in the post-Independence era, sources put the number at a little over 50, including the execution of the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The clemency petitions pending with the home ministry include those of Murgan, Santhan and Ariva, all sentenced to death in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The fourth accused in the case was Nalini, whom then President KR Narayanan had granted a pardon in 2000.
The oldest petition pending with the Government is that of four alleged terrorists Gurdev Singh, Satnam Singh, Pyara Singh and Sarabjeet Singh, who killed 17 people in Amritsar and were sentenced to death.