At 45, Most Pleas Denied By Venkataraman 
The first six Presidents of Independent India received 263 mercy petitions from those who were on death row, of which only one was rejected and the rest commuted to life imprisonment.The only rejection of a mercy petition was by Dr Rajendra Prasad during the tenure of the first six Presidents from 1950 to 1982. Prasad commuted the death sentence in 180 of the 181 mercy petitions that he received.

S Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain and V V Giri received 57, 22 and 3 mercy petitions, respectively , and all were commuted to life. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Neelam Sanjiva Reddy didn’t have to deal with any mercy petition during their tenure (1974-82).

This was not the case though with many of their successors. Zail Singh and his successors R Venkataraman and S D Sharma had between them received 100 mercy petitions of which they rejected 93. R Venkataraman rejected the maximum number of 45, followed by incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee who rejected 31 of the 33 petitions he has received with nearly two years left of his presidency . Since Independence, 437 mercy petitions have been filed with successive Presidents. Of these, 306 cases were commuted to life.

All this was compiled by the Law Commission and form part of its report on death penalty released on Monday . The panel analysed the figures to suggest that “a death-row convict’s fate in matters of life and death may not only depend on the ideology and views of the government of the day but also on the personal views and belief systems of the President“.

Between 1997 and 2007, two Presidents -K R Narayanan and APJ Abdul Kalam -kept pending almost all the mercy petitions they received. While Narayanan did not take decision on any of the mercy petitions before him, Kalam acted only twice, rejecting one and commuting the other to life. “During their combined tenure of 10 years, they put the brakes on the disposal of mercy petitions,“ the report said.

Pratibha Patil (2007-12) commuted death sentence to life in 34 cases while rejecting five mercy petitions.