President Pratibha Patil has commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence given to eight murder convicts in two separate cases.

During the last three decades, Presidents had commuted the sentence in only 10 cases out of the 77 petitions decided by them.

Ms. Patil gave her order on June 15 on mercy petitions submitted by Shyam Manohar and five others, who were on death row since October 1997 for killing five persons including a 10-year old boy, and Dharmendra Kumar and Narendra Yadav, who were convicted of murdering five members of a family.

After the decision on these two mercy petitions, 21 such pleas are still pending with the President’s Secretariat while three are with Home Ministry, according to the information provided by the President’s Secretariat to S.C. Agrawal on his Right to Information application.

So far President Patil has decided on three petitions and in all of them the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

The last mercy plea granted by Ms. Patil was on November 23, 2009 when she commuted the death sentence awarded to R. Govindasamy of Tamil Nadu to life imprisonment.

In the latest cases, Shyam Manohar along with Sheo Ram, Prakash, Suresh, Ravinder and Harish had filed a mercy petition before the President soon after the verdict of the Supreme Court in 1997 which upheld the death penalty awarded to them by the High Court.

The file was re-submitted to President’s Secretariat on February 23, 2010.

Dharmendra Kumar and Narendra Yadav of Uttar Pradesh had filed the mercy petition in 1999 and it was re-submitted to President’s Secretariat on March 2010.

The broad guidelines generally considered while examining grant of mercy under Article 72 of the Constitution relate to age, sex or mental state of the accused, circumstances of the case, conduct of the offender and medical abnormality falling short of legal insanity.

After examination, the case is submitted to the President’s Secretariat for a final decision with the due recommendation of the Union Home Minister.

There is no time limit given under the Article for the President to take decision on a mercy plea.

If the appeal is rejected under the Article 72, the decision of the President is communicated to the concerned State governments and Union Territories, which decide the date of execution in the matter under the existing rules.

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