A day after the sole death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, Yakub Memon, filed a fresh clemency petition, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday the practice of filing repeated mercy pleas should be stopped.
In an oblique reference to Memon’s case, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar told a constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu, “There must be finality to the case after the President or the Governor rejects the mercy plea and courts also dismiss their appeals. Repeated filing of mercy pleas frustrates the principle of finality.”
The bench was hearing the Centre’s plea against Tamil Nadu’s decision to remit the life sentences and prematurely release seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Kumar contended the Jayalalithaa administration cannot show mercy to the killers because two constitutional authorities — the President and governor — had rejected their clemency plea.
Kumar said if the practice of allowing mercy petitions to be filed repeatedly is allowed “the whole procedure will be endless and it is a misuse of the provisions”.
But the bench sought to know if a governor could entertain a second mercy petition from a death row convict after the first one was rejected by the President. “Wouldn’t that embarrass the President?” it asked, without referring to Memon’s representation.
“What will happen if the governor takes a contrary view and thus embarrass the President?” the CJI asked Kumar.
The solicitor general said the governor can decide the mercy plea of death row convicts even if it had been rejected by the President provided there is a “change in circumstances”. He, however, said the convict cannot be granted remission after constitutional authorities like the President and Governor had rejected the mercy plea.
Memon’s curative petition before the SC was rejected by a bench headed by the CJI on Tuesday, paving the way for his execution. But within hours, he filed a personal mercy petition before Maharashtra governor. His lawyers said the first clemency plea rejected by the President last year, was moved by his brother.