New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the government to include delay as a criteria in deciding the mercy petition of a death row convict.
Pointing out that the government has set out certain criteria for deciding mercy petitions, the bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh said: "We hereby recommend that in view of the recent jurisprudential development with regard to delay in execution, another criteria may be added to the existing yardsticks so as to require consideration of the delay that may have occurred in disposal of a mercy petition."
The bench said the clemency procedure "provides a ray of hope" to the condemned prisoners and their family members for commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment.
"Therefore, the executive should step up and exercise its time-honoured tradition of clemency power guaranteed in the constitution one way or the other within a reasonable time," the court said.
Holding that mercy petitions could be disposed of at a "much faster pace than what is adopted now", the court said: "The fact that no time limit is prescribed to the president/governor for disposal of the mercy petition should compel the government to work in a more systematic manner to repose the confidence of the people in the institution of democracy."
Urging that mercy petitions should be decided expeditiously, the court said it has consistently held that prolonged delay in execution of the death sentence "gives rise to mental suffering and agony which renders the subsequent execution of death sentence inhuman and barbaric".
Stating that it was not a "pleasure" for the court to interfere in the constitutional powers, it said: "We implore upon the government to render its advice to the president within a reasonable time so that the president is in a position to arrive at a decision at the earliest."