Mercy, Fairness and Death Penalty in India: A Critical Study

  • Ishika Agarwal and Monika Priya
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  • Ishika Agarwal

    Student at School of Law, Manipal University Jaipur, India.

  • Monika Priya

    Student at School of Law, Manipal University Jaipur, India.

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Mercy petition is one of the most debated and stressed topics in the sphere of law and justice at national and international levels. The discussion on mercy petition and death penalty is never ending, be it the House of Commons or United Nation Human Rights Commission. At this time most of the countries have already abolished the death penalty or are under a moratorium but India is still on the verge of seeking reform on Mercy petition as well as capital punishment. Mercy Petition and death penalty are interrelated because it is only when a convict is being sentenced with death penalty the need for knocking the door of president arises. Even after so many years of independence there is still impediment in the “proper application of mercy petition and death penalty” in India. The long delay and inefficiency in dealing with a mercy petition is the most lamenting part of the executive. The debilitating effects of this complex phenomenon imposed upon the prisoners that can be only called a living death are far beyond the maximum suffering permitted by Article 21. As per a report , there are 142 which have abolished the death penalty. Still, India is defending the retributive theory and forgetting the words of Gandhi, "an eye for an eye makes world blind". Under the Indian Constitution clemency powers are given to the President of India and Governor of the States by the virtue of Article 72 and 161 respectively. The said articles authorize the executive to grant Pardon, commute, suspend, reprieve, respite and to remit the capital punishment even if sentenced by the highest court of the land. The mercy can be granted by the President on any redeeming fact of the case, trial or other factors. Yet the numbers show that the outcomes of mercy petition depend less on the crime or the criminal but on the fact that who occupies the Rashtrapati Bhavan.3 Under the provisions of the Constitution President and Governor can reduce the sentence of the prisoner or can grant pardon altogether. In cases of death penalty the President can commute it to life imprisonment but his decision is based on the recommendation of the home minister. President can ask the minister to reconsider but if the minister insists on the death penalty then the option available is either to comply or to exercise pocket veto, leaving the decision pending for their successor. The pocket veto is the only way for a president to express disagreement with the Home Ministry‟s recommendation. In India the death row prisons have to face long delays in trial, appeals and thereafter in executive clemency because of which they suffer from extreme agony, anxiety and debilitating fear arising out of an imminent yet uncertain execution.” This paper focuses on clemency power of the executive and how they decide mercy petitions. Also this paper will try to highlight the problems and irregularities that take place while deciding mercy petition and how that leads to grave violation of human rights. Also, with the help of cases and data this paper emphasizes on the need to improve the existing system


Research Paper


International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 3, Page 137 - 152


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