Former President Pranab Mukherjee told the Hindustan Times on Friday that he rejected Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s mercy petition based on the government’s advice.
Mukherjee said that it was up to the lawmakers to abolish capital punishment in the country. During his tenure, he rejected 30 mercy petitions, including those of Guru, Ajmal Kasab and Yakub Menon.
“Before a mercy petition comes to the President, it passes through various stages and different actions had already been taken,” he was quoted as saying, adding that the president only goes by the advice of the government. “If the government advises rejection of the mercy petition, the president naturally will go by that.”
Mukherjee added: “The president cannot assume the role of the court which had already considered the death sentence at various stages.”
In 2002, a trial court had sentenced Guru to death after he was convicted for his links with the Parliament attack of 2001. The sentence was later upheld by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court in 2004. Guru was supposed to be hanged in 2006, but his family sent a mercy petition to the president, which stayed the hanging. He was hanged on February 9, 2013, six days after Mukherjee rejected his petition.
The former president said that he did not believe in keeping the files without making any decision. “I disposed them off and accepted the government’s recommendations to reject mercy petitions except in one or two cases where I discussed with the then home minister, and both of us agreed on commuting the death sentence,” he said. “Rest all, I confirmed.”
2001 Parliament atatck
On December 13, 2001, five gunmen drove into Parliament in a car plastered with a fake sticker pass. Once inside the complex, they got out of the car and opened fire. A gun battle ensued as security personnel returned fire, and one of the intruders detonated explosives strapped to his waist. The attack killed 14 people, including police and security personnel, a gardener, a journalist and the militants themselves.