The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC limits Afzal mercy options

New Delhi, Oct. 11: While considering Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal’s mercy petition, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam cannot take a decision based on political expediency.

The Supreme Court today ruled that the President or a governor cannot consider political, religious, caste or other “extraneous” factors while pardoning convicts or remitting their jail term.

Setting aside a remission granted a year ago by then Andhra Pradesh governor Sushil Kumar Shinde, a two-judge bench said the courts had the power to squash clemency “granted for improper reasons”.

One key argument offered by those seeking pardon for Afzal is that hanging him will worsen the unrest in Kashmir and boost militancy.

The rule of law “cannot be compromised on the grounds of political expediency’’, Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia ruled.

They said the President or a governor must keep in mind the effect of their decision on the victims’ families and society as a whole, and the precedent it sets. The families of security personnel killed in the attack have petitioned Kalam against a pardon.

The court suggested reasons should be cited while granting or denying clemency. The grounds it considers relevant include the convict’s conduct and potential for reform, and his family’s plight.

The court set aside an August 11, 2005, order remitting the jail term of murder convict G.V. Reddy. The court, which had upheld the conviction, took exception to suggestions in the clemency recommendations that Reddy was falsely implicated, as Afzal’s backers are saying about him.

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