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The Clemency Politics

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The passing of resolution by Tamil Nadu Assembly seeking clemency for killers of Rajiv Gandhi has set a wrong precedent in our country. The resolution was moved by none other than state Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and was passed unanimously on August 30, 2011. While on the same day the Madras High Court deferred by eight weeks the execution of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers – Murugan alias Sriharan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu. The three convicts were to be put to death on September 9, 2011. The Bench admitted the petition observing that since 11 years delay had been caused in the disposal of mercy petition, it is now a question of law. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, was assassinated on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The assassination was carried out by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Pro-Tamil organisations like MDMK, DMK, and PMK have been demanding the commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment. MDMK leader Vaiko has been in the forefront on this issue. But families of victims who were killed along with Rajiv Gandhi want killers to be hanged. It seems so as to appease some sections; Tamil Nadu Assembly has passed a resolution which in a way expresses solidarity with the three killers who assassinated our former Prime Minister.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, who is MLA from Langate constituency of Kupwara district, has submitted a resolution to the J&K Assembly Speaker seeking mercy for Afzal Guru, Indian Parliament attack convict. The resolution will be tabled before State Assembly in the last week of the month. In his resolution, MLA Rashid said, “Let the house resolve that Afzal Guru be granted amnesty, on humanitarian grounds, against the death sentence granted to him by the Honb’le Supreme court of India, for his alleged involvement in the 13th December 2001 attack on Indian parliament.”

Isn’t it astounding that some of our politicians want clemency for the terrorists/killers? Think of those people who get killed in attacks. In Parliament attack, seven people were killed including five policemen and more than 20 got injured. Weren’t their lives important? The attack on Parliament of India was an attack on our democracy. Also, some sections in J&K State are apprehensive that if Afzal Guru is hanged, it will create law and order problem. Well, many people in Kashmir valley are not in favour of execution of Afzal Guru due to ‘obvious’ reasons.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Badal has written to the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh seeking pardon for Devinder Singh Bhullar, a Khalistan Liberation Force leader, who is sentenced to death. Bhullar was sentenced to death for masterminding a 1993 car bomb attack in New Delhi that killed 12 people. Former Indian Youth Congress President M.S. Bitta was seriously injured. Various Sikh organizations − Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and even former Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh have supported the demand. It should be noted that Punjab Assembly elections are due in February 2012. In order to keep their vote bank intact, several parties/groups in Punjab want mercy for Bhullar.

Our judiciary provides enough scope for the convict to challenge the verdict of the trial court to the High Court and that of High Court to the Supreme Court. Even if Supreme Court holds the decision of death sentence, one can appeal to the President of India for mercy. After all this, there should be no two views on final verdict. Although the state assembly resolution is not binding on any institution as stated by Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, yet a wrong example has been set. Seeking review of judicial verdict impelled by vote bank politics is deplorable.

Whether it is clemency for Rajiv Gandhi killer’s or Afzal guru or Bhullar; the motive behind this ‘clemency’ is same – the vote bank. The punishment whether life term, death sentence etc. need to be carried out. Let the sentiments remain as sentiments and not be set up as precedents.

(Originally published in Rediff & The Broad Mind)

Written by Varad Sharma

September 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm