Politics canít be the factor in pardon: SC

Amidst the clamour over the mercy plea for Mohammed Afzal, ordered to be hanged for his role in the December 2001 Parliament attack case, the Supreme Court today made it clear that maintenance of the rule of law, and not political expediency, should be the criteria for grant of pardon or remission of sentence by the President or Governor. Any such decision, the apex court reminded, should not only be for the benefit of the convict, but should take into account its effect on the families of the victims and the society as well.

Setting aside a decision of then Andhra Pradesh Governor Sushil Kumar Shinde, remitting the sentence of a Congress activist who faced ten years in prison in connection with the killing of two persons including a TDP activist, the SC bench of Justices S H Kapadia and Arijit Pasayat warned that the exercise of the power would be tested by the court against the maintenance of Rule of Law.

"Rule of Law is the basis for evaluation of all decisions (by the court)... That rule cannot be compromised on the grounds of political expediency. To go by such considerations would be subversive of the fundamental principles of the Rule of Law and it would amount to setting a dangerous precedent," the bench warned.

Justice Kapadia, while concurring with the main ruling delivered by Justice Pasayat, sought to remind "exercise of executive clemency is a matter of discretion and yet subject to certain standards. It is not a matter of privilege. It is a matter of performance of official duty... the power of executive clemency is not only for the benefit of the convict, but while exercising such a power the President or the Governor as the case may be, has to keep in mind the effect of his decision on the family of the victims, the society as a whole and the precedent it sets for the future."

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