PARDONING POWER OF THE PRESIDENT (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     14th June 2024        
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Context: The President of India has rejected the mercy petition of Pakistani national Mohammed Arif, who was sentenced to death for the 2000 terrorist attack at the Red Fort that resulted in the deaths of three people, including two Army jawans.


Pardoning Power of the President

  • Article 72: It grants the President the power to grant pardons, suspend, remit, or commute sentences, providing additional protection against potential miscarriage of justice.

oThe President is empowered to grant pardons to individuals convicted of offences against Union Law.

oThe President can pardon those convicted and sentenced by a court martial (military court).

oThe President has the authority to pardon or commute sentences of death.

oUnder Article 161, the Governor in India too has pardoning powers.

  • Types:

oPardon: It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments, and disqualifications.

oCommutation: It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment for a lighter form. For example, a death sentence may be commuted to rigorous imprisonment, which in turn may be commuted to simple imprisonment.

oRemission: It implies reducing the period of the sentence without changing its character. For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.

oRespite: It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender.

oReprieve: It implies a stay of the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period. Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the President.

Standard Do Courts Apply in Death Sentence Cases

  • Supreme Court Ruling: In 1980, the SC upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in the case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab but established significant guidelines.
  • Judicial Temperament: The court emphasized that judges should not be bloodthirsty and must exercise great restraint when considering the death penalty.
  • "Rarest of Rare" Doctrine: The death penalty should only be awarded in the "rarest of rare" cases where the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed, and all mitigating circumstances have been thoroughly considered.
  • Law Commission Report 2015: It recommended the absolute abolition of the death penalty for all crimes except for terrorism-related offenses and waging war.
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