Puncturing the BJP-Shiv Sena campaign to link the delay in Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's hanging to his religion, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday reminded the opposition that the mercy pleas of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassins and convicts in terrorist cases that had killed 31 people too were pending.
Rejecting suggestions that a time-limit be imposed on Rashtrapati Bhavan to decide on mercy pleas, Chidambaram said he had been able to obtain a decision in 7 of the 13 mercy pleas resubmitted to the President after May 2009.
Shiv Sena member Manohar Joshi responded to the reply by attributing the delay in hanging Afzal Guru to politics.
"... they (people) think that there is politics behind not hanging him. Since he belongs to the minority community, he has not been hanged," Joshi charged, a remark that provoked even NDA ally, Shivanand Tiwari of the Janata Dal (United), to join protests by the CPM's Brinda Karat and Sitaram Yechury.
"There is another terrorist case where nine people were killed. There is another case, which is a terrorist case where 22 people were killed," he said. These cases relate to people convicted in 1993 car bomb case in Delhi and landmine blasts in Karnataka that killed 22 cops. "In all these cases, I am not looking at the religion or the caste or the race of the accused. I am treating all accused who have been given the death sentence as convicted persons who have applied to the President of India for mercy," the Home Minister told the Rajya Sabha.
According to the status report annexed with Chidambaram's written response, Rashtrapati Bhavan had cleared only cases so far where the home ministry had recommended commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment. "There is no delay by the Ministry of Home Affairs but I cannot comment on the time taken by the President," Chidambaram said.