16 mercy petition disposed of in 3and-a-half yrs

New Delhi: 16 mercy petitions have been disposed of during the last three-and-a-half years, which is more than any such period earlier, the Rajya Sabha was informed today.

"This government and the current Rashtrapatiji has disposed of more mercy petitions in three-and-a-half years than any period before," Home Minister P Chidambaram said during Question Hour.

Noting that 16 mercy petitions, out of the cases submitted to President Pratibha Patil, have been disposed of, he said, "I cannot comment on decisions of the President." Chidambaram said there were two views on death sentence with a large number of countries abolishing capital punishment and an equally large number continuing to have death sentence for specified crimes.

Law in India provides for death sentence in rarest of rare cases and Law Commissions have not favoured abolition of capital punishment, he said, adding the government has not taken any view on capital punishment that is different from what the law states.

"At the moment we are not engaged in review (of capital punishment). But time will come when we will have to take a review," he said, pointing out that death sentence can be commuted by Constitutional authorities.

Chidambaram said the Supreme Court has interpreted provision of Section 433-A of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, to state that prisoners undergoing life imprisonment become eligible to be considered for pre-mature release after they serve 14 years of actual imprisonment without including the period of remissions given to a convict for good conduct.

"The Supreme Court judgment has made it mandatory that all prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment should invariably undergo 14 years of actual sentence, and only on completion of 14 years of actual sentence, the prisoners would be eligible to apply for release as per remission rules of the state government concerned," Chidambaram said.

He said parole provisions are abused by rich and influential and in one case, the court has pulled up the state administration concerned. He did not name the state or the accused in the case. "I agree that parole provisions are indeed abused and the rich and influential are able to abuse parole provisions," he said, adding an advisory could be issued to states to scrupulously follow the provisions.