The Supreme Court (“Disposal of mercy plea a constitutional obligation”, Jan. 22 ) has sent out a clear instruction to the executive that once a sentence is passed, legal aid must be provided to the convict at the earliest for drafting mercy petitions — mental illness and solitary confinement being grounds — and exploring judicial remedies. The ruling will reduce much gratuitous anxiety among victims’ kin. A decision to ban the death penalty altogether may be arrived at after due consultations with different sections of society.

Ashok Kumar K.A.,

Bangalore

The court may have asserted that due legal process in the evaluation of mercy petitions must not only be carried out but also seen to be performed with fairness and responsibility within a reasonable time. However, the court seems, in deference to the executive authorities, to have refrained from defining what constitutes “reasonable time”. There are bound to be unintended consequences for this ambiguity in specifying a critical aspect of the post-conviction procedure. If the right to receive pardon is to be upheld, a time-frame cannot be left unclear.

V.N. Mukundarajan,

Thiruvananthapuram

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