Is the letter of President Kalam on mercy petition missing?
An application was filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) seeking copies of all correspondence between the President APJ Abdul Kalam and the MHA regarding the guidelines for dealing with mercy petitions under Article 72 of the Constitution. The applicant Venkatesh Nayak also sought copies of correspondence by former presidents K R Narayanan and Pratibha Patil with the MHA. The MHA has replied that it has “no information” on the issue.
It is not clear whether the presidents had written to the government on the issue barring APJ Abdul Kalam. In his book “Turning Point: A Journey Through Challenges” the former President APJ Abdul Kalam discussed capital punishment and wrote about his reservations on death penalty. Referring to the substantial number of cases pending in Rashtrapati Bhawan for many years, Kalam expressed the desire to get all these cases examined from a normal citizen's point of view in terms of crime, intensity of crime and the social and financial status of the individuals who were convicted and awarded capital punishment. To his surprise, this study revealed that almost all the cases which were pending had a social and economic bias. He writes “This gave me an impression that we were punishing the person who was least involved in the enmity and who did not a have a direct motive for committing the crime.....In my view, while courts are hearing the capital punishment cases, they should alert the law-enforcing authorities to intelligently find out the source of sustenance of the individual who is being punished and that of his family. This kind of analysis may lead to the real person and the motive which led to the crime.''
It has been alleged that the study was sent to the MHA recommending that financial, sociological and humane grounds should be considered before a mercy petition was rejected. Critics have pointed to poor record keeping practise as a possible reason of misplacing the said letter sent by Kalam to MHA.