The newly formed BJP led NDA government in India is planning to challenge the position taken by the Indian judiciary that undue delay in executions caused by delay in deciding constitutional review petition by President of India forms valid ground for granting clemency to a convict.
As per media reports the home ministry of India has conveyed to the ministry of law that the President’s decision on capital punishment should be considered final after the legal procedure is completed and that the President’s decision, once taken, cannot be challenged in court.
As per media report the law ministry is now preparing to file a curative petition shortly on behalf of the Central government against the top court order commuting death sentences of at least 15 convicts, as well in the case involving commutation of death penalties awarded to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s killers to life terms citing an 11-year delay.
“A combined curative petition will be filed in the SC for all the cases where death sentences have been commuted to life terms despite the President’s rejection of the same,” an named top government official was quested by a report published in Deccan Chronicle (DC).
The MHA, in its draft affidavit sent to the law ministry, is learnt to taken the view that the President is the “sovereign authority” and once the President exercises the constitutional powers vested in him under Article 72 and rejects a constitutional review petition, the court only has limited powers for judicial review.
The MHA has also taken the view that the government needs to take a tough stand on “terror-related” cases and other “heinous crimes” falling in the so-termed “rarest of rare” category and attracting capital punishment.
Such cases, if commuted, do not send out a positive signal, govt. thinks.
Thirdly, the MHA has conveyed to the law ministry that the inordinate delays being cited on behalf of the government in disposing of petitions by themselves cannot be sufficient grounds for commuting death sentences. Moreover, since there is no time frame set for the President to decide on a review plea, there is no question of delay on the part of the President.