CHENNAI: The power of the President of India to decide on mercy petitions under Article 72 of the Constitution is discretionary and cannot be taken away by any statutory provision and cannot be altered, modified or interfered with in any manner by any statutory provision or authority, the Union Home Secretary (Judicial) said on Friday in his common counter affidavits filed in response to the three writ petitions from Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, convicted of killing former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Nullifying the trio’s main contention that there was inordinate delay of over 11 years in disposing of their mercy petitions, the counter said the exercise of the power under this Article was not curtailed by any limitation as to the time frame within which such power conferred might be exercised. It was a special power overriding all other laws, rules and regulations in force. No time frame could be stipulated or set up for the President in this regard. Delay by itself did not entail the persons under sentence of death to demand for quashing of the sentence or converting it into life imprisonment. So, there could be no fixed period within which any mercy petition ought to be disposed of. The contention that if the mercy petition was not disposed of within a fixed period, it would render the sentence of death inexecutable, was untenable. The court, in exercise of power under Article 226 or Article 32, could not prescribe a time limit for disposal of the mercy petition. The citations of the Supreme Court judgments by the petitioners would not apply in this case, the counters said.
Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan had lived a normal life in prison like any other prisoner and were given opportunities to develop their skills. They were allowed to pursue their studies as well as other literary and cultural activities in the prison. So, it was fanciful to contend that they suffered mental torture, which caused violation of their fundamental rights, the counters said.
The behaviour of the trio in the prison, even if good, could not take away the reality that they had committed an extremely gruesome, heinous, cold-blooded and cruel crime. It was a well-planned and predetermined brutal murder with the active connivance and help of the petitioners by the terrorist organisation LTTE, which caused the death of, besides the former PM, 15 other innocent persons. The petitioners deserved the extreme penalty of death and nothing short of it. Giving deterrent punishment alone could prevent potential offenders from committing such crimes, the counters reiterated.
Just because some eminent personalities, social organisations, political parties, MPs, MLAs, former judges and jurists had written to the State government or to the President of India, it could not be considered to be a valid ground to commute the death sentence, the counter reiterated. Bowing to their demand would set a bad precedent and in the future it was likely to create and be a cause for communal and religious protests and unrest. Some persons/politicians demanded the commutation for political mileage. Public support could not be a benchmark or scale to measure, it said.
The decision of the President was not arbitrary and was not based on extraneous considerations. Justice had to be done not only to the convicts but also to the victims, the counters said.
Source: Tamil Nadu | Updated Oct 30, 2011 at 11:01am IST
Express News Service , The New Indian Express
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/no-time-cap-for-mercy-petitions-says-centre/197241-60-118.html accessed on 8th Nov 2011
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