The reservations of Haryana governor Jaganath Pahadia in granting clemency to four murder convicts notwithstanding, the Haryana cabinet on Wednesday made a second reference to him for reconsidering the grant of pardon, which leaves him with no choice but to okay.
In 2003, a Rohtak court had given life imprisonment to these four people from the Garhi Sampla-Kiloi constituency of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The recommendation to free the four life convicts was made twice, even though the Punjab and Haryana High court had dismissed their criminal appeals in 2010.
In May 2013, the council of ministers had made the first recommendation to the governor for granting pardon to the four convicts. Governor Pahadia, who sat on the mercy petitions for more than 9 months, sought legal opinion from the advocate general, studied the complete documentary record of the four cases, and referred back the mercy petitions to the cabinet recently for reconsideration with certain observations. Referring back the mercy petitions, Pahadia had 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 is left with no option but to grant them pardon.
Rambir, Vinod "Lakhmi", Satpal, and Rajiv, all from Kansala village in the CM's constituency in Rohtak district, were convicted under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 148 (armed rioting), and 149 (unlawful assembly with common object) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 25 (manufacture, sale, transfer, use, brandishing) of the Arms Act in a case registered at Rohtak's Sampla police station on May 23, 2001.
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, officials have said.
HC rejected compromise
Rejecting the compromise theory, a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court, comprising justice SK Mittal and justice Jora Singh had 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 not in a position to ignore the prosecution story. It was of the opinion that the evidence was scrutinised rightly without any scope for interference in the impugned judgment.
Ex-guv had also sent back mercy pleas
In August 2003, former governor Babu Parmanand had also sent back the mercy petitions of four life convicts who were recommended for premature release on compassionate grounds by cabinet of the-then chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala. The governor had then taken the plea that the cabinet's recommendation was against te Supreme Court guidelines, in violation of the state government's own instructions, and against the spirit and philosophy of the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code. The Chautala cabinet did not send it to the governor again.