Four murder convicts from Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's constituency in Rohtak will walk free courtesy Haryana cabinet. A day before the model code of conduct for Lok Sabha polls came into effect, Haryana governor Jagannath Pahadia on Tuesday granted pardon to the four life convicts whose mercy petitions were referred to him a second time by the cabinet on February 26, 2014. The release orders of the four convicts were also issued on Tuesday evening.
The governor had earlier rejected the mercy petitions of the four lifers who come from Garhi Sampla Kiloi in Rohtak, the assembly constituency of Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Expressing reservations over the grant of clemency of the four life convicts, Pahadia had sent the mercy petitions – first approved by the Haryana cabinet on May 2, 2013- back to the cabinet for reconsideration of its earlier decision. However, the cabinet on February 26 made a second recommendation to set free the four leaving Pahadia with no choice.
The cabinet, while recommending pardon, said: "Clemency to them is in the larger interest of maintaining social harmony, law and order and peace in their village and in the region." The mercy appeals were recommended on the basis of compromise brokered between the parties after assessing the recommendatory reports of the director general of police, Rohtak deputy commissioner and others.
The compromise theory, however, was rejected by a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court, comprising Justice SK Mittal and Justice Jora Singh which in 2010 dismissed a criminal appeal of the convicts.
"Under Sections 320 and 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), when the offence is not compoundable, then accused are not to be acquitted on the basis of compromise. From the perusal of evidence on the file, we are of the opinion that the present case does not fall in the category of marginal cases," the high court had ruled.
The high court said that in case parties had compromised and were willing to live peacefully, it was happy but it was not in a position to ignore the prosecution story. It was of the opinion that the evidence was scrutinized rightly without any scope for interference in the impugned judgment.
In May 2013, the cabinet made the first recommendation to the governor for granting pardon to the four convicts. Governor Pahadia, who mulled over the mercy petitions for over nine months, sought legal opinion from the advocate general and subsequently referred back the mercy petitions to the cabinet for reconsideration with certain observations.
While referring back the mercy petitions, Pahadia pointed to the trauma and suffering of the victim's family.
The governor also wanted policy guidelines to deal with cases of "compromise" in criminal matters, although there is no scope in criminal law for mutual settlement.
The governor, who has to consider the mercy petitions under Article 161 of the constitution, can only once send back the pleas to the cabinet for reconsideration. Since he does not have the power of pocket veto (a legislative manoeuvre allowing him to sit over the recommendation or a bill), he was left with no other option.