INDIA. KALAM'S MOVE BOOSTS CAMPAIGN AGAINST DEATH PENALTY
October 19, 2005: President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam's direction to review the cases of some people on death row left the government in a dilemma, but it appeared to have given a new momentum to the campaign against the death penalty. Advising the government to consider pardon for 20 of the 55 individuals on death row who had sought presidential clemency, Kalam reportedly suggested new benchmarks for reviewing death row cases.
Bikramjit Batra of the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), the NGO that had been leading a campaign against capital punishment, said Kalam's intervention had given a fillip to the movement to abolish the death penalty.
"We are happy that our campaign has got support from a person like the president. It has definitely given new life to our campaign against the death penalty," Batra told IANS.
Kalam was said to have asked the government to consider the nature of the crime and a convict's age, health and family ties apart from his or her behaviour in prison while reviewing death row cases.
Officials in the home ministry confirmed that a file rejecting pardon for 20 convicts, whom Kalam had found fit for forgiveness, had been returned by the president to the ministry with the advice to reconsider the decision.
"The file is with the judicial cell and no decision has yet been taken on it," said a source in the home ministry.
Officials said it was "almost impossible" for the government to provide pardon to the 20 people, whom courts had found guilty and convicted. "We have to consider a lot of issues before taking any decision on clemency," said an official.
"A decision might demoralise the investigation officers, who struggled to punish the guilty, and its social impact also cannot be ignored. We cannot simply go by emotions in this issue," the official remarked. (Sources: IANS, 19/10/2005)