Tough decisions await in office
President APJ Abdul Kalam has called his decision to return the office of profit bill to Parliament for reconsideration as the "most difficult and testing time" for him. Introducing bio-fuel was the second.
Pratibha Patil has a tougher road ahead. Tucked away in files shuttling between the ministries of home and law and Rashtrapati Bhawan over the last few years are 45 lives, condemned to the gallows by the Supreme Court, awaiting word on their mercy plea from Rashtrapati Bhawan. Between them, Kalam and government leaders have ended up leaving Pratibha Patil to sign on the fate of the condemned prisoners.
Parliament attack convict, Mohd Afzal — the man whose plea became politically sensitive after the BJP insisted it be turned down — is just one of them. Afzal's case is also one of the three of 24 cases pending for about a year; the oldest clemency petition was filed nine years ago.
The government told Parliament last December that the home ministry had submitted 22 cases to the President for a decision. The only case Kalam decided was that of Dhananjay Chatterjee of Kolkata, held guilty of raping and murdering a teenager.
In most of the other cases, Kalam is said to have reservations on rejecting their mercy petition and was inclined to take a more humane view.
Patil might have to take a position on some controversial judicial appointments as well. Kalam had objected to many judicial appointments and returned files relating to the elevation of Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Jagdish Bhalla as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Kerala High Court. However, he later assented to Justice Jain's appointment as the Punjab and Haryana Chief Justice. Justice Bhalla was made acting Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court.
Justice Bhalla's file is expected to go to Patil as the Supreme Court Collegium could recommend his confirmation as the Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court. Justice Jain is quite senior and if the Collegium recommends his elevation to the Supreme Court, she will have to take a decision on him too.
Kalam did not refer the NDA representation seeking removal of Election Commissioner Navin B Chawla to the Chief Election Commissioner.
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh moved the Supreme Court against it.
If the court holds the President should refer the petition for removal of Chawla as Election Commissioner to the CEC, Patil will be forced to send the representation to N Gopalaswami.