“Hanging Guru was a decision in the right direction to uphold the law”

Union Minister for Law Ashwani Kumar on Sunday warned against any attempt to politicise the hanging of Afzal Guru, who was convicted for his involvement in the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament. He, however, agreed that there was a need to fix a timeframe, within which Presidential pardon could be granted to those on death row,

Talking to The Hindu here, the Minister said hanging Guru was a decision in the right direction to uphold the law as well as for the security of the Indian state. He sought to dispute all suggestions that the execution of the death sentence had any political consideration as Guru went to the gallows after three courts unanimously upheld the death sentence. Subsequently, following the legal course, the President also rejected the mercy petition.

Responding to questions related to various issues being thrown up by the incident, especially the timing that had been preceded by delays, Mr. Kumar said the processes for exercising the sovereign power to pardon, on the advice of the Home Ministry, were well established and reviewed from time to time.

However, Mr. Kumar agreed that there was a case for fixing a time frame in which power to pardon should be exercised, taking into consideration the exigencies of the situation and a variety of factors that must be brought to the knowledge of the President before a final decision was taken.

The Minister said India had arrived at a moment in which all political parties needed to commit themselves to a constructive discourse that was anchored in the spirit of contestation of ideas and ideologies rather than remaining restricted to conflict-ridden rhetoric on all issues. “There are far too many grave challenges before the nation, which require a broad and sustainable political consensus to facilitate complex policy decisions, particularly considering the need for a harmonious engagement between the States and Union,” he said.

Reacting to concerns from various quarters, Mr. Kumar said the recent ordinance for amending the criminal law was just the first step towards revising and fine-tuning the relevant legal provisions to put in place an effective deterrent against crime, especially targeting women and children. He said the amendment would be discussed by Parliament and the government was completely responsive to any constructive suggestions to reduce the scope for abuse of power by the law-enforcing agencies.

He expressed satisfaction that the UPA government had risen to the challenge in bringing the ordinance in record time to respond to the sensitivities of a nation that had been shocked by the horrific incident in Delhi.

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