INDIA: PRESIDENT MUKHERJEE REJECTED 97% OF MERCY PETITIONS, BUT HE FAILED TO CURB CRIME
|President Pranab Mukherjee
September 1, 2014: President Pranab Mukherjee of India has rejected 97% of the mercy petitions in his two-year tenure, as of 31 August 2014, a human rights watch group said, stressing that death penalty has failed to act as a deterrent in the country.
Mukherjee, who assumed office on 25 July 2012, considered 23 mercy pleas involving 31 death-row convicts out of which only one was granted mercy, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) said in its report titled âIndia: Death penalty has no deterrence.â
Mukherjeeâs decisions are in sharp contrast to those of his predecessor Pratibha Patil, who commuted death sentences of 34 petitioners to life imprisonment during her tenure, over 90 per cent of Indiaâs total death row inmates pardoned ever. During her tenure, Patil has rejected the petitions of only five persons.
ACHR Director Suhas Chakma, who is also coordinator of the national campaign for abolition of death penalty in India, said that high number of death sentences has not brought down crime rate.
Citing National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the ACHR report stated that from 2001 to 2012, death sentence of 1,552 convicts were confirmed while the death sentences for 4,382 convicts were commuted to life imprisonment.
"Death penalty can never be a substitute to prevention, effective and prompt investigation and speedy justice delivery system against crimes on which the government of India has failed," Chakma said.
On the contrary, the report said, there was a drastic fall in murder cases following a considerable reduction in executions since 1982 when the Supreme Court propounded the "rarest of the rare doctrine" for awarding the death penalty.
On 2 April 2013, President Pranab Mukherjee accorded his assent to the Law, which was promulgated after a 23-year-old woman was savagely raped and attacked by six men in a bus on 16 December 2012 in Delhi and died nearly two weeks later. The new law has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted previously for rape.
Even inclusion of death penalty for repeat offenders of rape has not reduced non-homicidal offences such as rape, and the award of the death penalty in September 2013 to four adult defendants found guilty of rape and murder in the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape failed to act as a deterrent, the ACHR report added. According to Delhi police data, 616 rape cases were registered in Delhi from 1 January 2014 to 30 April 2014, an average of six cases per day. (Sources: Hindustan Times, 01/09/2014; HOC, 03/09/2014)