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Tags Current Affairs

Mercy petition

Date: 29 January 2020 Tags: Constitution


The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on a petition by December 16, 2012 gangrape-murder convict Mukesh Kumar Singh, who had challenged the dismissal of his mercy plea by President Ram Nath Kovind.



The case dates back to December 16, 2012, when a 23-year-old woman was gangraped and assaulted inside a moving bus in South Delhi by six persons, before being thrown out on the road. She died on December 29, 2012, at a hospital in Singapore.



President’s Clemency powers

  • Under the Constitution of India (Article 72), the President of India can grant a pardon or reduce the sentence of a convicted person, particularly in cases involving capital punishment. A similar and parallel power vests in the governors of each state under Article 161.

  • The pardoning power of the president is not absolute. It is governed by the advice of the Council of Ministers.  This has not been discussed by the constitution but is the practical truth.

  • Both the President and Governor are bound by the advice of their respective Councils of Ministers and hence the exercise of this power is of an executive character. It is therefore subject to Judicial Review as held by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Maru Ram v. Union of India (1980). It was subsequently confirmed by Kehar Singh v. Union of India [1988].

  • In the case of Epuru Sudhakar & Anr vs Govt. Of A.P. & Ors [2006] , Supreme Court, it was held that clemency is subject to judicial review and that it cannot be dispensed as a privilege or act of grace. 

  • There are five different types of pardoning which are mandated by law.

  • Pardon: means completely absolving the person of the crime and letting him go free. The pardoned criminal will be like a normal citizen.

  • Commutation: means changing the type of punishment given to the guilty into a less harsh one, for example, a death penalty commuted to a life sentence.

  • Reprieve: means a delay allowed in the execution of a sentence, usually a death sentence, for a guilty person to allow him some time to apply for Presidential Pardon or some other legal remedy to prove his innocence or successful rehabilitation.

  • Respite: means reducing the quantum or degree of the punishment to a criminal in view of some special circumstances, like pregnancy, mental condition etc.

  • Remission: means changing the quantum of the punishment without changing its nature, for example reducing twenty year rigorous imprisonment to ten years.

These powers are applicable:

  • in all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court martial;

  • in all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;

  • in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.

Mercy petition

Date: 17 February 2021 Tags: Constitution


Death row convict Shabnam has filed a mercy petition with the President of India. She could be the first woman to be hanged after Independence.



The development takes place at a time when Mathura Jail is reportedly preparing to execute Shabnam. It is the only jail in the country where women can be hanged to death.



  • As per the Constitutional framework in India, mercy petition to the President is the last constitutional resort a convict can take when he is sentenced by the court of law.

  • A convict can present a mercy petition to the President of India under Article 72 of the Constitution of India.

  • Similarly, the power to grant pardon is conferred upon the Governors of States under Article 161 of the Constitution of India.


Process of mercy petition

  • After extinguishing all the reliefs in the court of law, either the convict in person or his relative on his behalf may submit a written petition to the President.

  • The petitions are received by the President’s secretariat on behalf of the President, which is then forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs for their comments and recommendations.

  • A convict under the sentence of death is allowed to make the petition within a period of seven days after the date on which the Superintendent of jail informs him about the dismissal of the appeal or special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court.

  • The Home Ministry in consultation with the concerned State Government discusses the merits of the petition.

  • After the consultation, recommendations are made by the Home Minister and then, the petition is sent back to the President for his decision.

  • Even though the President and Governor are the executive heads, but they cannot exercise their discretion with regard to their powers under Articles 72 and 161.

  • The President can either accept or reject the mercy plea as per the advice by the council of ministers. However, the Constitution doesn’t provide for a specified time limit to accept/reject the mercy petition. 

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