Centre said court had only limited power to disturb the order of the President

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to review its January 21 verdict, commuting the death sentence of 15 convicts to life term because of inordinate delay on the part of the President in disposing of their mercy petitions.

A Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh dismissed the Centre’s petition in the CJI’s chamber, observing it had no merits.

In its petition, the Home Ministry had said keeping a death-row convict in suspense even as the President considered his mercy petition by itself could not be a sufficient ground for commuting the death sentence.

Citing its January 21 judgment, the court on February 18 commuted the sentence of the three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. A petition for a review of this ruling has already been filed.

The Centre said: “In the present case, the issue raised was commutation of the death sentence on the ground of delay, which allegedly attracted Article 21 of the Constitution in favour of the convicts.”

Further, “the interference of this court with the merits of the order of rejection issued by the President is without jurisdiction. Once the President had, in exercise of his power under Article 72, rejected the mercy petition, this court has only a limited power, under judicial review, to disturb the order of the President.”

The Centre said: “If this court was of the opinion that there had not been a proper consideration of the mercy petition, the same ought to be remitted back to the President for reconsideration.”

This report has been corrected for a typographical error

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