The Union government in its petition in the Supreme Court seeking review of the May 1st judgment, in which the apex court commuted the death sentence awarded to double murder convict M N Das to life sentence on the ground that there was inordinate and inexplicable delay on President's part to reject his mercy plea, said that entertaining of an appeal after the President has rejected the mercy petition also amounts to reopening the case. Once the mercy petition has been decided by the highest constitutional authority, the President of India, the courts should not allow reopening of the case, as the case has achieved its finality (in judiciary). Otherwise, reopening of the cases would be unending and it may never attain finality.
While saying that it had fully explained the decade-long movement of Das' mercy plea file both in the ministry of home affairs and the President's Secretariat, the Centre, for the first time, questioned the apex court's jurisdiction to reopen cases of death penalty after rejection of mercy pleas by President. The Centre also showed dissatisfaction on the repeated judicial scrutiny of President's decisions to reject mercy pleas on ground of delay, and therefore through its review petition also aimed to control the increasing trend among condemned prisoners to move high courts and the apex court after rejection of their mercy pleas by Governor or President.
The government also questioned the delay on judiciary's part in deciding the murder cases, from trial stages and appeals through the high court up to the Supreme Court and why is that adverse view was taken of the delay in executive side in deciding the mercy plea and not that of the delay in deciding murder cases and appeals in judiciary. The Centre said no distinction can be drawn between the delay during the trial and the delay in considering the mercy petition by President. It cannot be said that delay during the trial is justified and the delay by President in consideration of the mercy petition is not justified.
A little over two months ago, the Supreme Court had rejected Delhi Bomb blast convict Devenderpal Singh Bhullar's plea for commutation of death penalty to life sentence. However, it accepted Das' plea on the ground that there was an 11-year delay in deciding his mercy plea by President and also that it was not properly appreciated. The government supported its stand by saying that delay in deciding mercy pleas does not, in any manner, lessen the heinous nature of the offence which forced the high court to confirm the death sentence and the Supreme Court to uphold it. The Centre gave its reasoning by saying that as soon as the Supreme Court rejects an appeal against death sentence the condemned prisoner goes into mental agony recognizing that he will die. But since the execution is stayed during the pendency of mercy pleas, delay in deciding such mercy petitions actually keeps alive the ray of hope for life in the condemned prisoner. So, delay in deciding mercy pleas do not cause any additional mental agony for the condemned prisoner.