Monday, April 2, 2012

Death by waiting: India's mercy plea debate

President Pratibha Patil
A long list of convicts in the country face a fate "worse than death". They have been sentenced to death but for years they have been waiting to know the fate of their clemency petitions.

At least 33 people charged in 22 cases and given death have their petitions pending with the authorities.

The entire issue has brought the subject of the perceived ambiguity in dealing with people on death row. It is an established fact that most Presidents in the past have been uncomfortable rejecting clemency pleas. As a result, an unofficial tradition of sitting indefinitely on clemency petitions has emerged.

Government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said President Pratibha Patil has broken this tradition and has been making a concerted effort to take decisions on clemency petitions. Home minister P Chidambaram, on his part, has reviewed all pending mercy petitions and has been forwarding them to Rashtrapati Bhavan, these officials said.

Amnesty International, the human rights watchdog which keeps a watch on state executions worldwide, on March 27 wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and requested that India put an official moratorium on any further use of the death penalty.

Sections of civil society, human rights activists and the political class have stepped up the debate on whether it is time for India to abolish death sentence, given that no one wants to be the person who orders an execution (...)


Source: Hindustan Times, April 2, 2012