TNN | Apr 19, 2013,

GUWAHATI: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on Thursday submitted a fresh mercy plea to President PranabMukherjee seeking commutation of the death sentence of condemned prisoner Devender Singh Bhullar to life imprisonment. The rights body argued that since another prisoner on death row, MahendranathDas of Assam, had his mercy plea considered by two Presidents, Bhullar should also be given the same benefit.”There is already a precedent for the President of India to reconsider a mercy plea twice. The mercy plea of death row convict Mahendra Nath Das of Assam was considered twice as shown from the minutes of the Rashtrapati Bhawan supplied under the RTI Act,” ACHR director Suhas Chakma said.

Das committed the first murder in 1990 and while he was out on bail in 1996, he committed the second murder. In 1997, a trial court sentenced him to death for the two counts of murder. Das’s appeal was rejected by the high court in 1998 and by the Supreme Court in 1999. He is still waiting for the execution of his death sentence as his petition questioning the delay in his hanging for 16 years is pending in Supreme Court.

The RTI document states that former President Abdul Kalam on September 30, 2005, had accepted Das’s mercy plea and had advised the home ministry to consider extending clemency to him. Kalam had sent a communication to the home minister noting that the conduct of Das did not show trace of pre-meditated murder and that the crime might have been committed due to lack of mental equanimity and advised the home minister to consider extending the benefit of clemency to Das and added that during his incarceration in prison, he may receive periodic counselling to reform his personal and mental psyche.

However, the same recommendation was recalled by Kalam on October 5, 2005 and when he demitted office on July 24, 2007, Kalam noted that the case may be put up to his successorPratibha Patil, who subsequently rejected the mercy petition.

Das had earlier submitted his mercy petition to former President K R Narayanan in 1999 and the then home minister L K Advani had recommended rejection of the petition. Narayanan did not take any decision on the petition during his tenure and the same was put up to his successor, Kalam.

“If Das’s mercy plea could be reviewed twice, there is no reason as to why Bhullar’s mercy plea cannot be considered afresh.” Chakma said.

Giving 10 grounds for the consideration, the AHRC called upon the Centre India to commute Bhullar’s death sentence to life imprisonment, declare a moratorium on death penalty and set up an expert committee to consider ways and means for final abolition of death penalty.