In the wake of the hanging of Afzal Guru a few days ago, a city advocate has moved the Madras High Court with a public interest litigation petition seeking to prohibit the Union government from executing any death convict without first disclosing to the public, the prisoner concerned and his family about the rejection of the mercy petition by the President.

The petitioner, P. Pugalenthi, Director, Prisoners Rights Forum here, citing a Supreme Court judgment, said every convict awaiting the gallows had a fundamental right to approach either the High Court or the Supreme Court after the rejection of the mercy petition with a plea that the death sentence should not be allowed to be executed.

Now that Afzal Guru was no more, the Union government should act in accordance with law at least in future. It is learnt that 20 mercy petitions preferred by various convicts were pending before the President. The petitioner feared that those convicts would also be executed in secrecy, in the event of the rejection of the mercy plea. Such secret executions would spell doom for the democratic polity and sound the death knell to constitutional values.

Mr. Pugalenthi said rejection of mercy petition was subject to judicial review. When the President rejected a mercy petition, the prisoner could approach the Supreme Court for appropriate relief. If the rejection was not made public, the convict would not be able to secure legal assistance. Non-disclosure of the rejection of mercy petition would be violative of Art.21 of the Constitution.

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