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Should Do Away with Option of Mercy Plea for Child Rapists, Says President Ram Nath Kovind

File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind.

File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind.

President Ram Nath Kovind said he recommends that there should be an amendment the constitution with regards to mercy petitions.

New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday urged the Parliament to do away with the option of a mercy petition for those sentenced to death under the POCSO (Prevention of Children From Sexual Offences) Act amid the outrage over the increasing crimes against women that has put the spotlight on the slow pace of justice delivered by courts.

“I recommended that there should be an amendment to the constitution with regards to mercy petition. In my opinion people convicted under POCSO should not be allowed to come under the ambit of mercy petition,” Kovind said while speaking at a public event in Udaipur in Rajasthan.

“There should be no mercy for rapists. These kind of incidents shocks the whole nation,” he said, adding, “I am sure you share my sentiments but the final decision on this constitutional amendment lies with the Parliament”.

The POCSO Act was amended by the Parliament in August this year to include the death penalty in cases of aggravated penetrative sexual assault by a person in a position of authority or for aggravated sexual assault which results in the death of a child.

However, experts had warned at the time that death penalty would not reduce crimes, but only lead to reduction in the number of reported cases of sexual offence against children since 94 per cent of the accused are known to the victims in cases of child sexual abuse.

Now Kovind’s recommendation to remove the mercy petition also seems to be a populist suggestion amid the nationwide-outrage triggered by the rape and murder of a veterinary doctor in Telangana.

The applause the police seems to have attracted for shooting dead all four accused on Friday morning in an alleged encounter also points to people losing the faith in the “slow court system” and being pushed towards the instant justice offered by an encounter killing.

The pending mercy petitions of the convicted rapists in the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case have often been highlighted as evidence of the delay in justice process. On Friday, the home ministry rejected the mercy pleas of one of the convicts and sent the file for approval to the President.

Mercy petition has been one of the most debated and stressed topics in the arena of law and justice as they seek to offer a death row convict one last chance to seek reprieve after being found guilty of a rarest of rare crime by the top court of the land. A mercy plea is meant to give an additional safeguard against miscarriages of justice.

Data, however, shows that Presidents, with the exceptions of Rajendra Prasad and Pratibha Patil have dealt with mercy petitions largely without mercy. According to information released by the government under the RTI Act, of the 77 mercy pleas decided by Presidents between 1991 and 2010, 69 were rejected.

first published:December 06, 2019, 14:55 IST