President Pranab clears all 7 pending mercy plea cases

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NEW DELHI: Speculation mounted on Wednesday about the fate of nine people convicted for heinous crimes amid indications that President PranabMukherjee had upheld execution in five cases while commuting death sentence to life term in two others.

Sources said that the President used his powers under Article 72 of the Constitution to dispose of the mercy petitions of nine people convicted in seven heinous crimes. However, the details of individual cases could not be ascertained.

The home ministry had recommended rejection of mercy pleas in five cases and left two cases open for commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment with a rider that the life term should mean jail for the entire life of the convict and not just 20 years or 14 years in prison.

Sources said that the President does not have any mercy petition pending before him now.

Though the case-wise recommendation for convicts was not known as both the home ministry and President House did not reply to repeated questions, the seven cases on the President’s desk related to multiple murders, including one in which a convict who was out on bail on rape charge had killed five members of the victim’s family.

Among the cases that are reported to have been disposed of include the longest pending case of Gurmeet Singh of Uttar Pradesh who was convicted for killing 13 members of a family on August 17, 1986. The others cases are of Suresh and Ramji, also from UP, who were convicted for killing five members of their brother’s family and Dharampal from Haryana who had murdered five members of the family of a girl he had raped in 1993. He had murdered the family while on bail in the rape case.

The other cases are of Sonia, daughter of a former Haryana MLA, and her husband Sanjeev, who drugged and killed eight of her family members in Hisar in 2001, including her parents. Sunder Singh from Uttarakhand was convicted for rape and murder on June 30, 1989; Jafar Ali from Uttar Pradesh was convicted for killing wife and five daughter in 2002 and Praveen Kumar of Karnataka was convicted for killing four members of a family on February 23, 1994.

The mercy files, which have been pending for years while moving to and fro between the President House and the home ministry, has seen an unprecedented movement of late, resulting in two quick executions (Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru) within less than three months. Mukherjee had rejected the mercy plea of Kasab on November 5 and of Afzal on February 3. So far, the President has disposed off eight death row convicts in five cases.

Mukherjee has also rejected the mercy petitions of Saibanna Ningappa Natikar (Karnataka: convicted for killing wife and daughter) and mercy petitions of slain brigand Veerappan’s associates Gnanaprakash, Simon, ‘Meesai’ Madaian and Pilavendran, who were sentenced to death for killing 22 police personnel in 1993.

However, the mercy petition of Atbir (Delhi), who was convicted for murder of his step-mother, step-sister and step-brother over property, was commuted to life imprisonment by the President.

Very few of the death penalty cases, however, reach the President House every year. Even during the tenure of the then President Pratibha Patil, death penalties of 35 convicts were commuted to life imprisonment between 2007 and 2012. Patil had rejected mercy pleas in three cases, comprising five convicts.

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