New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil has commuted the death sentence of a domestic help, who had murdered a retired Brigadier and his two family members in Dehradun, to life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court, while sending Om Prakash to the gallows, had observed that “he is a menace to the society and it seems to us that the death sentence is the most appropriate punishment in this case”.
The fact that Prakash was young when he committed the crime was rejected by the apex court, which noted, “the crime shocks the conscience of the society at large and of the court and the facts and circumstances unfolded in the case leave the court with an irresistible feeling that he is beyond reformation though young he is.”
Patil, however, found it a fit case to be pardoned and issued orders in this regard on April 29, making Prakash the 27th case during her tenure to get mercy, according to an RTI reply provided to Bhilwara-based activist SS Ranawat.
During her tenure, Patil, has rejected the petitions of five persons, which include Rajiv Gandhi’s three killers — Santham, Murugan and Arivu; Khalistan militant Devinder Pal Singh, convicted in the ‘93 Delhi car bombing and Mahendra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered a truck drivers association leader.
Patil has emerged as the most “merciful” of all presidents during the last three decades as she had commuted death sentences of 27 petitioners to life imprisonment, which is over 90 per cent of the total pardons granted since 1981.
Prakash, who worked as a domestic help in the house of retired Brigadier Shyam Lal Khanna in Vasant Vihar locality, had killed Khanna, his son Sarit and his sister-in-law Bishna Mathur in 1994.
President APJ Abdul Kalam decided only two mercy petitions — in 2004, he rejected the plea of rape convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee, and in 2006 he commuted convict Kheraj Ram’s death penalty to life imprisonment.
President KR Narayanan did not clear any mercy petition.
Afzal Guru, who was found guilty of plotting the Dec 13, 2001, Parliament attack, in which nine people were killed, is also sentenced to death. His petition has not been forwarded to the president as his case was ‘under examination’.