The Home Ministry has forwarded the mercy petition of Mohammad Afzal Guru – sentenced to death in the Parliament attack case – to the President, with the advice that the Supreme Court’s 2005 judgement upholding his death sentence should not be interfered with.
The final decision on the clemency plea has been left to the President’s discretion, according to government sources.
Were President Pratibha Patil to go by the government’s advice, endorsing the Supreme Court’s view that Afzal Guru’s role as the chief conspirator behind the daring attack on Parliament is the rarest of rare cases that warrants death penalty, the UPA government will get a breather from the constant Opposition barbs linking the indecision on the terror convict’s mercy petition to it being soft on terror.
Minister of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran confirmed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the Home Ministry had forwarded the petition to the President for a final view.
“The mercy petition case of death convict Mohd Afzal Guru has been submitted to the President’s Secretariat on July 27, 2011, for a decision,” Ramachandran informed Elders in a written reply to a question.
The pendency of Afzal’s mercy petition, submitted to the President in 2005, has been used by BJP to allege the government was soft on terror. Recently, when serial bomb blasts shook Mumbai, BJP had gone into overdrive, arguing that UPA government’s indecision on punishing terror convicts by ‘sitting over their mercy petitions’ was only encouraging subversive elements to more acts of terror.
The Home Ministry had warded off criticism over the delay in decision on Afzal’s clemency plea by insisting that it was taking up mercy petitions in the order that they were submitted to the President. Chidambaram had underlined on many occasions that Afzal’s petition being no 22 in the serial order, would be taken up only when 21 preceding petitions were disposed.
Asked on Wednesday if there is any provision in the Constitution for deciding upon a clemency petition against capital punishment as per sequence of its submission, Ramachandran clarified in the Rajya Sabha: “There is no constitutional provisiona¦It was an administrative decision to ensure fair and urgent treatment of all cases.”
Afzal was awarded death sentence by a Delhi court on December 18, 2002, for conspiracy to attack Parliament on December 13, 2001, waging war against the country and murder. The death sentence was upheld by Delhi High Court on October 29, 2003, and his appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court on August 4, 2005.
A sessions court fixed the date of his hanging on October 20, 2006 in Tihar Jail. Following this, Afzal filed a mercy petition with the President, who forwarded it to the Home Ministry for its comments. Economic Times