The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the government for details of mercy petitions decided by the president in 2011 and other similar pleas awaiting a decision.
An apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya issued the order after perusing files relating to mercy petitions of several death row convicts.
The court direction came while examining the question whether a convict who filed a mercy petition was entitled to commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his plea.
The court expanded the scope of the hearing by seeking the details of all the mercy petitions while hearing a plea by terror convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the president and seeking commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment.
Bhullar was convicted and awarded death sentence for his involvement in a bomb blast at Youth Congress office here in 1993. Bhullar had filed the mercy petition Jan 14, 2003 which was rejected by the president May 25, 2011.
In the last hearing of the case, the apex court called for the original files relating to 18 mercy petitions pending before the president including that of 2001 parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru.
In his submission, amicus curiae T.R. Andhyarujina told the court that in the first instance it was important to note that "the power to be exercised by the president under Article 72 of the constitution is not a matter of grace or mercy as is popularly understood".
He said keeping a convict in suspense while considering his petition by the president for many years is agony for the convict.
Giving a summary of the record presented by the government in 20 cases, pending consideration of the president, he said that the government was oblivious to the agony of the convicts.