New Delhi, Feb 22: President Pratibha Patil, it seems, has been the most merciful of all presidents during the last three decades as she has commuted death sentences of 23 petitioners to life imprisonment during her tenure, which is over 90 per cent of the total pardon granted since 1981.
On February 9, she accepted the clemency petition of Sushil Murmu, pending since 2004, who was convicted for giving ‘bali' (sacrifice) of a nine-year old boy in Jharkhand for his own prosperity, an RTI response from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
It said that since 1981, 91 convicts knocked the doors of Rashtrapati Bhavan seeking commutation of their death sentences to life imprisonment.
Of these, petitions of 31 individuals were accepted out of which 23 were during her tenure.
According to the reply provided to applicant Subhash Agrawal, 18 mercy petitions were still pending before the president.
Patil, however, in exceptional cases, has rejected the petitions of five individuals which include the three killers of Rajiv Gandhi—Santham, Murughan and Arivu—and Davinder Pal Singh and Mahedra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered 68-year-old Harakanta Das, the then secretary of the Guwahati Truck Drivers Association at a roadside stall.
In Murmu's case, his sentence was commuted to life by Patil even though he was convicted for the killing, which was termed by the Supreme Court as “an illustrative and most exemplary case to be treated as the ‘rarest of rare cases' in which death sentence is and should be the rule, with no exception whatsoever.”