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Sloth at its worst: President's office undecided on clemency even after a decade
While human rights activists have been blaming the Indian Judiciary for its slow disposal of..

FOR ALL those people who see political machinations behind delay in Afzal Guru’s mercy petition, here is something that will explain the actual reason – the President’s office is actually sluggish and you can guess it from the fact that the mercy petition of Dharam Pal, a 44-year-old man from Haryana has been pending with the august office for more than a decade now.

Reply to an RTI application by Subhash Chandra Aggarwal reveals that Pal’s petition is the oldest one among the 18 mercy petitions pending with the president’s office. In 1997, a trial court had sentenced Pal to death along with his brother for raping and murdering five members of the family of a girl in Sonepat. “Pal’s mercy petition reached the President’s secretariat in 1999 and has been pending since,” reads the RTI reply.

Lawyers for Human Rights International has sought the clemency for Pal while highlighting the terrible conditions he was living under in an Ambala prison cell. Quoting from its website, a senior advocate of the body visited Pal and found him in a "pitiable condition living in sub-human conditions in a dingy cell in which there is no cross ventilation nor is it accessible to sun light and as per the version of the jail staff no electricity can be provided to the prisoners who are facing Death Penalty, due to security reasons".

"It was difficult to even stand in front of the cell, what to talk of living in that cell. Dharam Pal was suffering from depression and though he is aged around 44 years he looks to be 65 years old, due to the pitiable and depressing conditions of the cell. It is also very alarming that though solitary confinement has been condemned by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India as far back in the case of Sunil Batra in 1978, but solitary confinement is being still used in the cases of death sentence prisoners. It exhibits the sick mind of the jail authorities.”

“The prisoner who is awaiting execution of his sentence since last 12 years and his mercy petition pending since last more than 9 years deserves to be given the relief of conversion of his death sentence to life imprisonment and given a chance to live,” the mercy petition adds.

Though the judiciary here has been earning a bad name for being slow in passing the judgments but as seen from this RTI reply, in all the cases where judiciary after taking years to decide the cases and pass the exemplary sentences, the President’s office, which doesn’t need to examine any evidence or witnesses takes decades to pass its decision.

Except Afzal Guru and Simon, and Gnana Prakash, Madaiah, and Bilavendra, convicted for Parliament attack and casuing death of 22 police personnel by blasting land mines respectively, all the pending mercy petitions are either related to land disputed, rape and murder cases. While one can understand some sort of politics might influence the Guru’s and Prakash’s case, one just wonders as to why the august office takes years to say yes or no for apolitical issues.

Of all the 90 petitions disposed off by the office, 20 life sentences have been commuted to life imprisonment while the remaining 70 have been rejected, which include the petitions of Santhan and Murugan, convicted for the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, according to the RTI reply.

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