“Disturbing” is how the Supreme Court termed the statistics which showed that 17 mercy pleas filed between 1999 and 2011 remained pending for periods ranging from one year to 13 years.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya also noted that the figures “give an impression” that the Centre and the President’s Secretariat “have not dealt with these petitions with requisite seriousness”.
“Before parting with the judgement, we consider it necessary to take cognizance of a rather disturbing phenomena. The statistics produced by the learned Additional Solicitor General show that between 1950 and 2009, over 300 mercy petitions were filed of which 214 were accepted by the President and the sentence of death was commuted into life imprisonment.
“69 petitions were rejected by the President. The result of one petition is obscure. However, about 18 (including Afzal Guru) petitions filed between 1999 and 2011 remained pending for a period ranging from 1 year to 13 years.
“The particulars contained in the judgement give an impression that the Government and the President’s Secretariat have not dealt with these petitions with requisite seriousness. We hope and trust that in future such petitions will be disposed of without unreasonable delay,” according to it.
The apex court made the observation while rejecting Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s plea for commuting his death penalty on delay in deciding his mercy plea, saying that in view of the peculiar facts of the case “we are convinced there is no valid ground to interfere with the decision taken by the President”.
The court also noted that delay in deciding his petition for clemency was due to the “unending spate of petitions” filed on his behalf by various persons.
“We can take judicial notice of the fact that substantial portion of the delay can well-nigh be attributed to unending spate of petitions on behalf of the petitioner by various persons,” According to the bench.