Kalam cleared clemency for convict but MHA kept Pratibha in dark: SC

EXPLAINING its reasons for commuting the death sentence of Assam murder convict Mahendra Nath Das to life term, the Supreme Court has pointed out that then president A P J Abdul Kalam had recommended clemency in September 2005, but his successor, Pratibha Patil, was "kept in the dark" about this.

Since the home ministry did not agree with Kalam, it sent the recommendation for rejecting Das's mercy petition to then president Pratibha Patil in 2010, along with a note from then home minister P Chidambaram. But the ministry did not append Kalam's views.

Holding this lacuna to be incurable, the Supreme Court has said the rejection of Das's mercy plea by Patil in May 2011 was rendered "illegal" since the decision was vitiated by the lack of adequate advice by the ministry concerned.

The bench led by Justice G S Singhvi noted that the Centre had failed to bring on record any material to prove that it had placed the file before Kalam for a review of his order, or that Patil was asked to reconsider the decision of her predecessor.

"Therefore, it must be held that the president was not properly advised and assisted in the disposal of the petition filed by the appellant," said the bench, adding that Patil was "kept in the dark about the view expressed by her predecessor and was deprived of an opportunity to objectively consider the entire matter".

It said it was "most intriguing" that although the Home ministry's initial note made a reference to Kalam's opinion, the final recommendation sent to Patil did not mention it.

The court further noted that the government had also failed to explain the time lag of three years, between 2001 — when then Home minister L K Advani recommended rejection of the mercy petition — and 2004 — when the file actually reached Rashtrapati Bhawan.

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