Legal Correspondent

Power of pardon subject to judicial review: Soli Sorabjee

  • It will examine evolving broad parameters to be adhered to by President, Governors
  • Pardon granted by Andhra Pradesh Governor challenged

    New Delhi: The Supreme Court has indicated that it will examine laying down broad parameters to be adhered to by the President and Governors for granting pardon or remission of sentence to convicts.

    A Bench, comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia, is hearing a petition filed by Epuru Sudhakar challenging the grant of pardon by the Andhra Pradesh Governor to Congress leader Gowru Venkata Reddy, who was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment in a case of murder of Telugu Desam workers.

    In February, the Bench appointed the former Attorney-General and senior counsel Soli Sorabjee amicus curiae to assist the court in deciding the important questions involved. Subsequently, about 75 petitions were filed challenging the remission of sentences granted by various Governors.

    When the matter was taken up on Wednesday, the judges examined the records submitted by the Andhra Pradesh Government on the grant of pardon to Reddy.

    Mr. Sorabjee cited various case laws to show that the power of pardon, commutation and remission of sentence was subject to judicial review. It should not be exercised arbitrarily; otherwise, it would become a mockery.

    Interest of society

    Mr. Sorabjee said the important questions to be considered while granting pardon were: the interests of society and the convict; the period of imprisonment undergone and the remaining period; the seriousness of the offence; the age of the prisoner and the reasonable expectation of his longevity; the health of the prisoner; good prison record; post-conviction conduct; character and reputation; remorse and atonement; and deference to public opinion.

    Quoting various decisions, he said the power of pardon should be exercised only on public considerations. An undue exercise of the power should be deplored, as it would be a blow to law and order and additional hardship to society in its irrepressible conflict with crime and criminals. He wanted the court to lay down broad principles and criteria to guide the exercise or non-exercise of the power.

    Sudhakar and another petitioner, sons of the deceased, alleged that Reddy was granted remission after he had served only three years in jail.

    In its rejoinder, the Government said the petitioners misled the court and claimed that he was in jail for five years, two months and five days. There was no violation of any constitutional provision or any law and the Governor's powers under Article 161.