As President Pranab Mukherjee rejects five more mercy pleas of death-row convicts, a human rights body has criticised the Rashtrapati Bhawan for allegedly using clemency power in an arbitrary manner at the behest of the home ministry.
As advised by the home ministry, the President had on April 4 rejected mercy pleas of five convicts on death row while commuting death sentence of two others.
Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) alleged that the Rashtrapati Bhawan has been reduced to a rubber stamp of the home ministry.
"A case of life and death must not be decided without objective criteria… the criteria for considering mercy pleas (under Article 72 of the Constitution i.e. President's clemency power) must be evolved to avoid arbitrariness in such cases," ACHR director Suhas Chakma said. He called upon the Government of India to abolish death penalty in India.
According to an RTI response received by ACHR from the home ministry, since 1981 when the Supreme Court laid down the 'rarest of rare' doctrine in the Bachan Singh Vs State of Punjab case, various presidents considered 112 mercy pleas, out of which 83 mercy petitions (74%) have been rejected. The death penalty of 31 death row-convicts got commuted to life imprisonment.