After he shifted to Rashtrapati Bhavan, President Pranab Mukherjee was often heard saying how his table barely has files and official documents on it. But for past two months, one fat file has been a constant feature on the table: the mercy petitions.
His predecessor Pratibha Patil had rejected three mercy petitions while commuting death sentences to life imprisonment in 12 cases during her five-year tenure.
Five months into his new job, Pranab Mukherjee demonstrated his resolve and did not shy away from taking a call on the sensitive issue of mercy pleas by declining Kasab’s plea.
Sources in the Rashtrapati Bhavan clarified that “all cases are in various stages of consideration” but emphasised that the President will not act in a hurry and give each case the careful consideration it deserves.
Patil wanted to go slow and had reportedly told the government that as the first woman President, she cannot act hastily and send convicts to the gallows in the 23 cases, which she “inherited”.
But Mukherjee has come to Rashtrapati Bhavan with no such baggage. While there is a raging ideological debate over abolishing capital punishment, Mukherjee has shown on occasions, that he does not shy away from the death penalty provision.
As finance minister, he had recommended that the death penalty in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill be retained but agreed to make the punishment optional.
Sources also claimed that Mukherjee has indicated that on the mercy petition of Afzal Guru—arguably the most sensitive case—he would go by the decision of the Union cabinet as and when it comes and may not delay a decision.