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Mercy Petition in India, Making Process, Constitutional Framework

Context: President Droupadi Murmu has rejected the mercy petition of Mohammed Arif, a Pakistani national and member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

What is Mercy Petition?

  • Definition: A mercy petition is a formal request by an individual sentenced to death or imprisonment, seeking clemency from the President or the Governor.
  • Global Practice: The concept of mercy petitions is observed in many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and India.
  • Right to Life: Everyone has the basic right to live, a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Constitutional Framework for Mercy Petition

In India, a mercy petition to the President is the last constitutional recourse for a convict sentenced by a court of law.

  • Article 72: Presidential Powers
    • The President has the authority to grant pardons, reprieves, respites, or remissions of punishment, or to suspend, remit, or commute sentences for any person convicted of an offence:
      • In cases where the sentence is imposed by a Court Martial.
      • For offences against laws within the executive power of the Union.
      • In cases where the sentence is a death sentence.
  • Article 161: Governor’s Powers:
    • The Governor of a State has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites, or remissions of punishment, or to suspend, remit, or commute sentences for any person convicted of an offence against state laws.

Grounds For Filing Mercy Petition

  • The prisoner’s health, including physical or mental fitness.
  • The financial condition of the prisoner’s family, particularly if the prisoner is the sole bread earner.
Difference Between Pardoning Powers Of President And Governor
  • The President’s power to grant pardon extends to the cases where the sentence or punishment has been awarded by a Court Martial, but the Governor’s power prescribed doesn’t provide so.
  • The President can grant pardon in all cases, including the death sentence, but the pardoning power of the Governor doesn’t extend to death sentence.

Process of Making a Mercy Petition

  • Absence of Statutory Procedure: There is no formal statutory procedure for handling mercy petitions.
  • Submission: After exhausting all legal remedies, the convict or a relative on their behalf can submit a written petition to the President.
  • Initial Handling: The petitions are received by the President’s secretariat.
  • Forwarding: The President’s secretariat forwards the petitions to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Review and Recommendations: The Ministry of Home Affairs reviews the petition and provides comments and recommendations.
Related Information
  • The Supreme Court ruled that the Governor of a State can pardon prisoners, including those on death row, even before they have served a minimum of 14 years of their prison sentence.
  • Epuru Sudhakar & Anr. v. Government of Andhra Pradesh (2006): The SC held that the power of the President and Governor under Article 72 and Article 161 is subject to judicial review.

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