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Sunday 7 June 2020

President rejects first mercy plea that reached him

The mercy petition was rejected by the president on 23 April 2018, according to a Rashtrapati Bhavan communiqu

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New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected the mercy petition of murder convict Jagat Rai whose death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court almost five years ago.

Jagat Rai was convicted of killing five children and the wife of one Vijendra Mahato by setting their house on fire while they were fast asleep on the night of 1 January 2006 at Rampur Shyamchand village in Vaishali district of Bihar.

Mahto had lodged a case of theft of his buffalo in September 2005 in which Rai, Wazir Rai and Ajay Rai were named as accused. The accused were pressuring Mahto to withdraw the case.

After being convicted of the crime and being awarded the death penalty by the local court, the high court and the Supreme Court in 2013 too gave their nod for the hanging. Rai’s mercy plea was then sent to the president’s secretariat.

In September 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Rai, ruling that the gravity of offence was such that this case fell into the category of “rarest of rare” cases.

Rai’s mercy petition was sent last year to then President Pranab Mukherjee who could not, however, take any decision since the process to elect the 14th President had been initiated.

By the time he demitted office last July, President Mukherjee had decided on 34 mercy pleas — he rejected 30 and, in four cases, granted pardon. His record of rejecting mercy pleas is second only to President R Venkataraman (1987-92) who declined 45 mercy pleas. President KR Narayanan (1997-2002) did not act on any mercy petition while his successor President Abdul Kalam (2002-2007) disposed of two mercy pleas. President Pratibha Patil (2007-2012) commuted sentences in 34 mercy pleas and rejected only five.

This is the first mercy plea decided by Kovind after he became the president in July last year. There is no other mercy petition pending with the president’s secretariat.

Under Article 72 of the Constitution, The president shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence where the sentence is a sentence of death.

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