The apex court bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya also asked Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval, appearing for the government, to address the question whether the victim of a crime had the locus standi if the matter relating to the mercy petition of a death convict travelled to court.
The apex court’s posers to the government came while examining the question whether a convict who has filed a mercy petition was entitled to remission of death sentence on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his mercy petition.
The apex court on 15 November 2011, while hearing the plea by Devender Pal Singh Bhullar challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the president, had enlarged the scope of the hearing and sought the details of all mercy petitions of death row convicts pending before the president and the governors in the states.
Bhullar was convicted and awarded death sentence for his involvement in a bomb blast at Youth Congress office here in 1993. Bhullar had filed the mercy petition on 14 Jan 2003 which was rejected by the president 25 May 2011.
The court had appointed senior counsel Ram Jethmalani and TR Andhyarujina to assist it in the matter.
The court asked that whether non-placing of the report on Bhullar’s health condition before the president prior to the rejection of his mercy petition did not expose the decision to judicial review.
The court said this when it was told that the entire record of Bhullar’s case including its background, prosecution, conviction, Supreme Court judgment, its review, and decision on curative petition were placed before the president.
In the course of the hearing, the court observed that the pendulum of the decision making process for deciding the mercy petition had oscillated from left to right and back but asked what happens if it stopped oscillating.
Pointing to the differential treatment of different convicts on the death row, the court observed that those who have god fathers within and outside the country to orchestrate their case got a different treatment than those who were mute.
The court wondered if “we are a country of drum beaters”.
The government told the apex court that 33 mercy petitions were pending with the president.
In 2010, the president decided four mercy petitions, another eight were decided in 2011 and two in 2012. As of now, 18 mercy petitions were pending, 17 were with the president’s secretariat and one with the home ministry.