More executions in 7 months of Pranab than in 15 years


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By signing Parliament attack convict Mohammed Afzal Guru's execution warrant, President PranabMukherjee has ordered death penalty for three convicts in the last six months, a rate faster than any President in the last 15 years. While his predecessor PratibhaPatil rejected the mercy petitions of five death row convicts in three cases, two involving four criminals are pending before the Supreme Court.

In quick succession, Mukherjee rejected the mercy petitions of Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab on November 5, 2012 and Saibanna Ningappa Natikar on January 4 before clearing Guru's death penalty on February 3. He commuted the death sentence of Atbir, who was found guilty of murdering three relatives on November 15, 2012 over a property dispute.

The decisions are in sharp contrast to his predecessors K R Narayanan, A P J Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil. While Narayanan did not reject any mercy petition, Kalam gave his nod for only one convict to be awarded the death penalty.

Patil granted clemency to 34 convicts — including four rapist-killers — during her tenure while rejecting three pleas. These included the politically sensitive case of former PM Rajiv Gandhi's assassins — Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. She also rejected the mercy petition of Devinder Singh Bhullar, found guilty of killing nine bystanders in a 1993 car bombing intended to kill Maninderjeet Singh Bitta. The third petition she rejected was that of Mahendra Nath Das, accused of murder. The cases of both Bhullar and Rajiv Gandhi's assassins are pending before the Supreme Court.

According to data accessed through RTI by activist S C Agrawal, Narayanan (1997-2002) received 10 petitions, of which he commuted the death penalty of G V Rao and S C Rao from Andhra Pradesh. Kalam inherited the remaining nine petitions with another 16 added in his term. He disposed of only two — rejecting the mercy petition of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, accused of raping and murdering a teenager, and commuting the death sentence of Kheraj Ram.

President Shankar Dayal Sharma received 14 mercy petitions and rejected all.

A presidential pardon arises from Article 72 of the Constitution that empowers the president to pardon, grant reprieve or suspend, remit, commute sentence of person convicted of any offence. The president is guided by the home minister and the council of ministers.