Campaign for commutation

The stage is set for a major campaign in favour of commutation of death sentences awarded to 12 convicts, with Justice Prabha Sridevan’s excellent piece in The Hindu today highlighting the case of the 13 convicts, who suffered capital punishment because of erroneous Supreme Court judgments.

Of the 13, President Pratibha Patil has already commuted the sentence of one convict, Bantu in June this year. She is yet to decide the mercy petition of another convict, Saibanna, although she has received the advice from the Ministry of Home Affairs. With her term as President ending on July 25, it is likely that she may defer from taking any more decision on the pending mercy petitions, leaving them to her successor to decide.

The mercy petitions of the remaining 11 are either pending with the State Governors, or have been rejected by them, and they are likely to send their fresh mercy petitions to the President in due course.

Although Justice Prabha Sridevan has relied on the Santosh Bariyar judgment of the Supreme Court, there are several judgments post-Bariar which are still tainted, despite not being declared as per incuriam by a subsequent Bench of the Supreme Court. If the 12 convicts identified in the Bariar judgment get relief from the President, so must others who have been wrongly sentenced to death by the Supreme Court subsequent to Bariar. Therefore, it is for the Supreme Court itself to take the corrective steps, rather than leave it to the Executive to decide which are the post-Bariar cases which deviated from the Bachan Singh line, in order to exercise the President’s power to commute under Article 72 of the Constitution.

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