The Centre on Saturday assailed the January 21 Supreme Court verdict commuting the death sentence of 15 convicts to life term, saying the President’s decision in disposing of a mercy petition was beyond judicial review.

In its review petition, the Home Ministry said keeping a death-row convict in suspense or delay in consideration of his mercy petition by itself could not be a sufficient ground for commuting the death sentence. Citing the January 21 judgment, a Bench on February 18 commuted to life sentence the death penalty for Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, on which review was already filed.

In the present case, the issue raised was commutation of the death sentence on the ground of delay, which, it was claimed, attracted Article 21 in favour of the convicts. Therefore, it involved a substantial issue of interpretation of the Constitution and ought to have been heard by a Bench of five judges, as mandated under Article 145, the Centre said. Further, “the interference of this court with the merits of the order of rejection issued by the President is without jurisdiction.”

If this court felt there was no proper consideration of the mercy petition, it ought to be remitted back to the President for reconsideration.

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