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Mercy pleas of 306 death row convicts accepted by presidents

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Death sentence of 306 convicts has been commuted by successive presidents so far out of total 437 such mercy petitions.

This was disclosed by Law Commission, which has given a chart of mercy petitions disposed of by successive Presidents since January 26, 1950 till today in its report released yesterday on death penalty.

The analysis of the chart suggests that a death-row convict’s “fate in matters of life and death may not only depend on the ideology and views of the government of the day but also on the personal views and belief systems of the President”, the Commission said.

The report, which recommended abolition of death sentence except in cases of terrorism and waging war against country, said from January 26, 1950 till today, out of a total of 437 mercy pleas, 306 were accepted — death sentence commuted to life in jail — and 131 rejected.

It said during 1950-1982, which saw six Presidents, only one mercy petition was rejected as against 262 commutations of death sentence to life imprisonment.

Quoting available records, it said President Rajendra Prasad commuted the death sentences in 180 out of the 181 mercy petitions he decided, rejecting only one.

President S Radhakrishnan commuted the death sentences in all the 57 mercy petitions decided by him. President Zakir Hussain and President V V Giri commuted the death sentence in all the petitions decided by them, while President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and President N Sanjeeva Reddy did not get to deal with any mercy petitions in their tenure.

“In contrast to the first phase (1950-1982), between 1982 and 1997, three Presidents rejected, between them, 93 mercy petitions and commuted seven death sentences. President Zail Singh rejected 30 of the 32 mercy petitions he decided, and President R Venkataraman rejected 45 of the 50 mercy petitions decided by him.

“Subsequently, President Shankar Dayal Sharma rejected all the 18 mercy petitions put up before him,” the report said.