A task in hand: showing mercy to pending petitions

President-elect Pranab Mukherjee’s next five years in Rashtrapati Bhavan are likely to be more relaxed than the five decades he spent in public life. But there will be a set of 11 files seeking his instant attention once he assumes office.

These files are mercy petitions, including that of Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru, which have been recommended for rejection but not acted upon by outgoing President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

As Mukherjee graduates from being a key decision-maker in the UPA government to occupying the President’s chair, he would also have to sign many pieces of legislation that he had originally contributed to — either in conceptualising or drafting.

These range from legislative proposals to tightening the narcotics control law, creating a lokpal to check corruption, the public procurement bill (which he helped draft), and the food security bill conceptualised by him.

In dealing with mercy petitions, officials expect Mukherjee to reverse the practice of his three predecessors — KR Narayanan, APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Devisingh Patil — of indefinitely putting away the files rejecting mercy petitions. As the finance minister, a government official said, Mukherjee did propose to introduce a mandatory death penalty for repeat offenders under the narcotics control law but agreed to reconsider due to objections on legal grounds.

Kalam only rejected rapist murderer Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s mercy plea, who was hanged in 2004.


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