Instances of President's delay in commuting death sentences has come under public debate as denial of justice. Should there be a time limit specified for the President to accept/reject such petitions? Analyse.

Published: January 22, 2015

The law as it stands now provides no time limit for the President to decide if he wishes to exercise his right to grant a pardon. However, a recent decision of the Supreme Court granted pardon to 15 persons on grounds of inordinate delay. It also issued guidelines asking the authorities to provide appropriate legal aid to persons on death row, and asking that they be informed about the rejection of their mercy petitions in writing. This decision was an attempt by the Judiciary to provide some transparency to the process by which an inmate is granted presidential pardon.

The granting of presidential pardon has become a highly politically sensitive issue, with consecutive presidents putting off taking decisions so as avoid any fallout arising from the outcome. This, however, results in violation of the basic human rights of the death row inmates, whose life hangs in the balance. A span of 10 to 12 years is an incredibly long duration for a person to wait to find out if their life has been spared or not, and this exerts immense emotional and mental trauma on the inmate and his/her family. Also, as recently exhibited the mental state of the inmates also undergoes changes, with some of them suffering psychiatric illnesses by the time a final decision is made. Hanging of such mentally unstable persons is also a violation of human rights. Timely delivery of justice is a cornerstone of a democratic society, which is why there should be a maximum time limit within which a President must accept/reject petitions for granting of presidential pardon.

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