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In a plea seeking the prescription of rules for the time-bound disposal of mercy petitions, it was argued that "Rights under Articles 14 and 21 are being violated of convicts and victims due to the lack of procedure."
A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has sought to know from the Centre whether there exists a timeline within which a mercy plea by a death row convict needs to be placed before the President of India.
The Bench of CJI Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy was hearing a petition by Advocate and social activist Shiv Kumar Tripathi who sought directions from the Court so that specific rules, procedure and guidelines are framed for disposing off mercy petitions within a specified time period.
However, the CJI led Bench pointed out that the Court cannot direct the President in this matter and that it would only be able to seek a response from the Ministry of Home Affairs on the same.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought time to seek instructions in the matter. Accordingly, a four week period was given for the Centre to respond.
In his plea, Tripathi has highlighted that in the absence of specified written procedures, rules and guidelines for the time-bound disposal of the mercy petitions, "the same is resulting in arbitrariness and discrimination in the disposal of the mercy petitions."
Further, grievance is also raised that undue delays in the disposal of mercy pleas allow some prisoners to take advantage of the same to effectively convert their death row sentence to one of life imprisonment. "The victims and their families feel cheated in such cases", it is added.
It is also noted that there is no question of public hearings before the President makes his decision, since the power of pardon is executive in nature.
The convict may, therefore, not be able to provide complete information in the absence of a prescribed form, particularly if the convict is illiterate, unaware or tries to hide information to make his case more favourable.
In view of these submissions, Tripathy had sought for directions to prescribe written procedures for the time-bound disposal of mercy pleas by the President.