2021 JAN 22
Polity > Executive > Governor
Why in news?
- Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit on Thursday told the Supreme Court that a decision on the mercy petition of one of the convicts serving a life sentence for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, AG Perarivalan will be taken within four weeks.
- The Tamil Nadu Cabinet had, in September 2018 recommended release of all seven convicts including Perarivalan for their involvement in the 1991 assassination.
What is mercy petition?
- As per the Constitutional framework in India, mercy petition to the President or governor is the last constitutional resort a convict can take when he is sentenced by the court of law.
- A convict can present a mercy petition to the President of India under Article 72 of the Constitution of India.
- Similarly, the power to grant pardon is conferred upon the Governors of States under Article 161 of the Constitution of India. However, the Governors pardoning power does not extend to death sentences.
- Article 72 provides that the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence—
- In all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial;
- In all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;
- In all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.
- As per article 161, The Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.
Process of making a mercy petition:
- There is no statutory written procedure for dealing with mercy petitions, but in practice, after extinguishing all the reliefs in the court of law, either the convict in person or his relative on his behalf may submit a written petition to the President.
- The petitions are received by the President’s secretariat on behalf of the President, which is then forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs for their comments and recommendations.
- A convict under the sentence of death is allowed to make the petition within a period of seven days after the date on which the Superintendent of jail informs him about the dismissal of the appeal or special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court.
- The Home Ministry in consultation with the concerned State Government discusses the merits of the petition. After the consultation, recommendations are made by the Home Minister and then, the petition is sent back to the President for his decision.
- Even though the President and Governor are the executive heads, but they cannot exercise their discretion with regard to their powers under Articles 72 and 161.
- Both the executive heads are required to act on the advice of the appropriate government–Central and State Government. The advice of the appropriate Government binds the Head of the state.
- The President can either accept or reject the mercy plea as per the advice by the council of ministers.
- However, the Constitution doesn’t provide for a specified time limit to accept/reject the mercy petition. He can keep the petition in abeyance for an indefinite period if he wishes to.
In which of the situations does a governor can be said to enjoy a situational discretion?
(a)Dissolution of state legislative assembly when no clear government emerges.
(b)Reservation of a bill for the consideration of the President.
(c)Recommending for the President’s rule in the state.
(d)None of the above
Answer to Prelims Question