Former president Pranab Mukherjee, who is against the continuation of the death sentence, also insisted that it was for lawmakers to amend the law and abolish capital punishment, which is in the Indian Penal Code.
Former president Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday he rejected Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s mercy petition on advice from the government as he could not have assumed the role of the court which had already considered the death sentence at various stages.
Mukherjee, who is against the continuation of the death sentence, also insisted that it was for lawmakers to amend the law and abolish capital punishment, which is in the Indian Penal Code. During his tenure from 2012 to 2017, Mukherjee rejected 30 mercy pleas.
“Before a mercy petition comes to the President, it passes through various stages and different actions had already been taken. The President goes by the advice of the government,” he told HT in an interview.
“If the government advises rejection of the mercy petition, the President naturally will go by that. The President cannot assume the role of the court which had already considered the death sentence at various stages.”
A trial court sentenced Afzal, then studying medicine, to death on December 18, 2002, for his role in the terror attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001.
The Delhi high court later confirmed the sentence, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2004. The sentence was to be carried out on October 20, 2006 in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, but a mercy petition by the family to the President stayed it. Guru was finally hanged in Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013 after Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition on February 3 that year.
“I did not believe in keeping the files without taking any action. I disposed them off and accepted the government’s recommendations to reject mercy petitions except in 1 or 2 cases where I discussed with the then home minister and both of us agreed on commuting the death sentence. Rest all, I confirmed,” he said.
Speaking about Kashmir, he said the situation “definitely requires undivided attention” of all those concerned. “We were able to manage the situation during UPA-I and UPA-II. Similarly, this government is also making efforts. Let us see how the situation develops and how problems are resolved.”
“More than often the secessionist elements take advantage by constantly launching agitations but we shall have to resolve the issue with the cooperation of the people and the government in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Asked about the revival of Congress, he said the party has the “capacity to face the situation, tackle adversities and come out with ideas and principles”.
“…whenever there is crisis the party had the capacity to overcome that. I have no doubt that Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders and workers will be able to overcome the crisis and Congress will play its own role.”