Govt may amend law to deny mercy petitions to POCSO convicts

President of India Ram Nath Kovind

The government of India may soon bring amend the law to deny the possibility of a presidential pardon to those sentenced to death under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences or POCSO Act.

Speaking at an event organized by the spiritual outfit Brahma Kumaris in Hyderabad, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said that opinion was shifting in the direction of denying such convicts the right to file a mercy petition.

His comments came in the context of the government coming under fire over rising incidents of extreme cruelty against women and children, including one three days ago in which a lady doctor in Hyderabad was raped, stabbed and finally burnt to death by four men.

The government has also been taking the heat for not having carried out the death sentence of the four convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case, despite the Supreme Court dismissing their appeal against their death sentence.

A mercy petition was filed by the convicts before the Delhi government, which was denied. It is not clear whether one has been filed before the central government and if so, what the status of the same is. The victim’s parents have taken the government to court over the delay, but were told that the legal formalities are not fully completed. The case, however, is not covered by the POCSO Act.

Like in other countries that received their legal fundamentals from the British system, anyone sentenced to death can file a mercy petition before the central and state governments in India.

These governments have the absolute power to commute the death sentence under Articles 72 and 161 of the Indian constitution.

While such petitions are usually denied in cases of extreme cruelty, the processes involved is often perceived as standing in the way of the swift implementation of justice.

“In this context, there are many ideas coming up. One of them is that such convicts get a right to submit a mercy petition,” President Kovind said today.

“I have said that you should have a rethink on this, refuse the right to file a mercy petition in cases under the POCSO Act. They don’t need any such right,” he said.

Talking in the context of the latest incident that took place in Hyderabad, he also expressed consternation about the kind of attacks that are being carried out on women and children in the country.

“The savage attacks carried out on our daughters shock our conscience,” he said. “The responsibility to ensure that boys develop a healthy attitude towards women belongs to every citizen, every parent, to you and to me.”

Any move to deny mercy petitions, however, may invite criticism from anti-death penalty activists in the country.

Many countries have abolished the death penalty, and there has been a campaign to get the same done in India as well.