Indian President Pratibha Patil’s new Avatar: in Mercy Plea Controversy

The controversies related to Pratibha Patil does’t seem to end. Sometimes she comes in news for her foreign trips or for her expenses, this time she is in common circle for her disposal of clemency petitions.

Capital punishment is the oldest way to do justice. In earlier times it was awarded most often in every murder case but with the coming of modernization, its application has gone under a paradigm shift. Now-a-days it is applied in rarest of rare cases.

But Pratibha Patil has commuted a number of death sentences in cases where it was well deserved. Pratibha Patil has made a new record in this regard. She has commuted the death sentence of as many as 35 convicts to life — among them are those convicted of mass murder, kidnapping, rape and killing of children. In fact, almost all the convicts pardoned are guilty of the rarest of rare crime.

On June 2, Pratibha Patil gave her pardon to four more — Bandu Baburao Tidke from Karnataka, Buntu from Uttar Pradesh and Lalchand alias Laliya Dhoom and Shiv Lal from Rajasthan.

Such a large scale of presidential pardons has surprised everybody.

Death penalty is awarded in rarest of rare cases so as to do justice to the injured party. This is a way to do justice in exceptional cases. And awarding mercy in such cases certainly, violates the spirit of justice, without assigning any reason.

On this point Archana Dutta, Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson, said the President was well aware of constitutional provisions as she was a lawyer herself. “The President only takes a decision to commute a death sentence or reject it after she is satisfied by the advice tendered by the government. The President ensures that the government has put in certain application of mind to give mitigating and extenuating circumstances for their advice,” she said.

Notwithstanding Dutta’s assertion, the speed with which Patil has granted pardons would indicate haste. While Patil has shown mercy to mass killers and rapists and killers of children, she has not given the same treatment to political assassins like the killers of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh or Rajiv Gandhi.

With the June 2 decision to grant four more pardons, the President boasts of a disposal rate of 200%. In recent times President K R Narayanan received 10 petitions and disposed of only one in his tenure. A P J Abdul Kalam inherited nine petitions with another 16 added in his term, taking the total to 25. He disposed of only two — rejecting one and pardoning the other.

Constitutional provision regarding Presidential pardon

Article 72 empowers President to pardon, grant reprieve or suspend, remit, commute sentence of person convicted of any offence

President guided by home minister, council of ministers

Exercise of the executive prerogative subject to judicial review

Pratibha Patil has granted clemency to 35 convicts — a record 22 of those killed by these 35 were women and children.

Since 1981, more than 90 have pleaded for clemency

Clemency records of previous Presidents
a. APJ Abdul Kalam:Had 25 mercy petitions. Rejected plea of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, India’s last recorded execution. Commuted one to life. Returned others.

b. K R Narayana: Sat on all pleas. Used delay as tactic. Received about 10 mercy pleas

c. S D Sharma: Rejected all 14 mercy petitions presented to him

Some of the convicts offerd clemency by Pratibha Patil

1.SATISH: killed & brutalized Visakha, 6, a UP resident, in 2001.

2.MOLAI RAM & SANTOSH YADAV: On February 20, 1996, Molai Ram was on duty as a guard at the jailor’s quarter in Central Jail, Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. Santosh Yadav, already serving a rape sentence, was assigned to tend the garden. The jailor’s minor daughter went missing, to surface the next day in a septic tank at a nearby cattleshed. Ram and Yadav had raped and strangulated her.

3.DHARMENDRA SINGH and NARENDRA YADAV: In June 2010, the nation reacted with visceral revulsion when Dharmender Singh and Narendra Yadav of Uttar Pradesh were pardoned. In 1994, they had wiped out a family of five, including a 15-year-old girl. Narendra had tried to rape her a few days before, failing which he conspired with Dharmender to teach the family a lesson: Three people were beheaded while a 10-year-old boy was tossed alive into the fire.

4.PIARA SINGH and HIS THREE SONS: From Punjab, massacred 17 of a wedding party

5.SHOBHIT CHAMAR Of Bihar. A landless cobbler from Tirojpur Durgawati village in Bihar’s Bhabua district, he was condemned to death for killing six members of his upper-caste landlord’s family, including two children aged 10 and eight, on suspicion that the family was behind the murder of his brother. “He exhibited the most inhuman conduct while rejoicing his victory after the commission of the crime,” the apex court noted in 1998

6.SHYAM MANOHAR, SHEO RAM, PRAKASH, RAVINDER SURESH and HARISH: Killed five, including a 10-yr-old boy, over a property dispute

7.OM PRAKASH: From Uttarakhand, murdered retired brigadier and two family members

8.SUSHIL MURMU: On December 11, 1996, nine-year-old Chirku Besra went missing in Hazaribag, Jharkhand. While his father looked for him, Murmu lured the boy into his home and beheaded him in a ritual “sacrifice” to Goddess Kali

9. MOHAN and GOPI: From TN, kidnapped 10-yr-old boy, strangled him, got Rs 5 lakh as ransom

10.JAIKUMAR: Murdered pregnant sister-in-law and niece.

With clemency petitions, has Pratibha Patil done injustice instead of justice? In India where delay in justice is a disease in our legal system, this initiative adds up to the disease.

People who are craving for justice get injustice even at the hands of President?

Don’t such unreasonable clemencies encourage injustice, increase the pain of injured and their families?


Thank God she didn’t offer clemency to Afzal Guru!


The debate on her actions is on.



-Reena Yadav