What is the mercy petition?
As per Indian constitutional framework, mercy petition is last resort in context to the judicial system to the convict, which convicts can present within seven days of the order to the President of India under Article 72 of the Constitution of India.
Who can seek mercy petition?
- Death sentence by session courts must be confirmed by the high court.
The convict has an option to present mercy petition before the Supreme Court if the Supreme Court refuses, then the convict or concerning person can seek mercy petition to the President of India (Art 72) or the governor of the state (Art 161).
Who can grant mercy petition?
- According to Article 72, the President has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites, remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence:-
(a) In all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court-martial.
(b) In all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which executive power of union exceeds;
(c) In all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.
Besides, a pardon the President can also grant the following:-
- Reprieves i.e.: a temporary suspension of the punishment fixed by law;
- Respites i.e.: postponement to the future the execution of a sentence.
- Commutation i.e.: changing a punishment to one of a different sort than that originally proposed; and
- Remission i.e.: reduce the amount of punishment without changing the character of punishment.
The grant of a pardon or any of the above dispensations was at one time considered purely executive act free from judicial review as was expressed by the privy council in Balmukund V. King Emperor.[i]
Thus, Article 72 empowers the president to grant pardon, reprieves etc. And also to reduce the sentence of any person convicted.
Similarly, Article 161 confers the power to the governor of the state to grant pardons, reprieves, respites, remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence in certain cases, where offences are relating to a matter to which executive power of a state extends.
The President can grant pardon in all cases including the death sentence. But the power of the governor to grant pardon does not extend to the death sentence. The President power to grant pardon extends to cases where the punishments are awarded by marital courts, whereas governor power under Article 161 does not prescribe so. There is no time limit to decide the mercy petition and president is bound to follow the advice of union council of ministers while deciding mercy petition.
Monika | K.L.E Society’s Law College, Bangalore
- VN Shukla’s Constitution of India.