HM hits out at opp on mercy petitions issue

New Delhi: Home Minister P Chidambaram today hit out at the opposition on the issue of mercy petitions, saying while 16 cases had been decided by the President during his tenure, not even a single plea was cleared during the NDA rule when L K Advani was heading the ministry.

"L K Advani referred 14 cases of mercy petitions to the President in his six years as Home Minister. Not one was decided. It was zero out of 14 in six years," Chidambaram told PTI outside Parliament House.

He maintained that Advani`s successor Shivraj Patil referred back those 14 cases and another 14 mercy petitions during his tenure. "Out of these 28 mercy petitions sent by Shivraj Patil, then President A P J Abdul Kalam decided on two cases," Chidambaram said.

Referring to his own record, the Home Minister said he referred back the remaining 26 mercy petitions and another five to the President. "Of these 31 cases, President Pratibha Patil has taken decisions on 16 mercy petitions in just three-and-a-half years," Chidambaram said, adding that the allegation against the UPA sitting on mercy petitions was not based on facts.

As per the rules, the President is guided by the advice of the government of the day while taking a call on mercy petitions. Chidambaram parried questions on Afzal Guru, who was given death sentence in 2004 by the Supreme Court in the December 13, 2001 Parliament attack case. His mercy petition is pending.

The Home Ministry had submitted Guru`s case to the President`s Secretariat for a decision on July 27, 2011 with the recommendation that the petition should be rejected.

BJP has targeted the UPA government on the pending mercy petition of Guru and alleged that he was not being hanged as the Congress wants to play minority appeasement politics. The Constitution does not provide any time limit for the President to decide any clemency petition.