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What is Mercy Petition? “Prayer is that the new breathe of the new man, drawing within the air of mercy in petitions, and returning it in praises; it proves and maintains the spiritual life”.

 Matthew Henry

 In a layman language, if we say, mercy petition may be a form of help granted by someone to a needy person. As stipulated within the Indian Constitution, the president of India has the ability to grant pardons, mercy petitions in certain cases (article 71). While, if we speak about the state level, Article 161 tells us that the Governor of a state has the facility to grant pardons, mercy petitions at the state level.

Now, let’s talk about the method of Mercy Petition.

 There is no as such specified written procedure for dealing with mercy petitions, but in practical context, after excluding all the reliefs within the court of law, either the offender or his relative on his behalf may submit a written petition in writing to the President. The petitions are received by the President’s secretariat on behalf of the President, which is then forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs for his or her comments and suggestions. 

A convict under the sentence of death is allowed to form the petition within a period of seven days after the date on which the Superintendent of jail informs him about the dismissal of the appeal or special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court. The Home Ministry together with the concerned regime discusses the merits of the petition. After the consultation, recommendations are made by the house Minister so, the petition is sent back to the President for his decision. Note: while the President and Governor are the manager heads, but they cannot exercise their discretion with relevance their powers under Articles 72 and 161.

Both the chief heads are required to act on the recommendation of the suitable Central Government and authorities. the recommendation of the acceptable Government binds the pinnacle of the state. The President can either accept or reject the mercy plea as per the recommendation by the council of ministers. However, the Constitution doesn’t provide for a specified point in time to accept/reject the mercy petition. He can keep the petition delayed for an indefinite period if he wishes to.

Grounds for filing Mercy Petition

 In the mercy petition, the person is required to state the grounds under which he demands the mercy. These grounds are necessary to grant pardon and play an important role within the release of an accused by the order of the president. The act of mercy isn’t the proper treatment of the prisoner. He cannot claim it.

The mercy or clemency is granted on the grounds supported by his health, physical or mental fitness, his family financial conditions as he is the sole earner of bread or butter or not.

What happens when a convict moves a mercy petition?

In case, the petition is filed within seven days then it’s the duty of the Jail Superintendent to remain the execution of the death sentence. However, this doesn’t mean that after the expiry of seven days a convict cannot file a mercy petition. 

In such exceptional cases or intervening circumstances, it is the concerned authorities which will decide the question of deferring the death sentence.

Difference between pardoning powers of President and Governor:

Though the President and Governor enjoy pardoning powers to the extent in which their executive power extends, however, the scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161. Power differs within the following two ways: The President’s power to grant pardon extends to the cases where the sentence or punishment has been awarded by a Court Martial, but the Governor’s power prescribed under Article 161 doesn’t provide so. The President can grant pardon all discussed cases, including the death sentence, but the pardoning power of the Governor doesn’t touch death sentence.


In MARU RAM V. UNION OF INDIA, the apex court said that article 72 and 161 of the constitution of India are often exercised by the central and state government, not by the president and therefore the governor on their own. the recommendation of the inappropriate government binds the pinnacle of the State.

This was reiterated by the apex court within the case of DHANA V. STATE OF West Bengal.

In KEHAR SINGH AND ANR. V. UNION OF INDIA, the apex court said that it’s appropriate that within the matter of life and private liberty, another degree of protection should be extended by entrusting power further some higher authority to think about the choice of commutation. The government is completely unaware of the pain and suffering of death house convicts or it intentionally chooses to avoid it. They behave in a very very reckless manner and in an exceedingly very ignorant way.

Mercy petitions are crucial because I do believe that living a life is the most beautiful thing and talking of executing the capital punishment during a current scenario where most of the countries have already put a transparent abolition and prohibition on the execution is completely justified.

No human deserves such torture despite the actual fact that he’s a criminal and everybody should get one chance to redeem himself and to repent over his wrong deeds.

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Law associated with Mercy Petition within the U.K. and within the U.S.A.

In the UK under the provisions given under the common law provisions, the queen had the facility to forgive any sort of crime, even the heinous one in an absolute manner. The queen had an absolute power to forgive even the deadliest and unfettered crimes. This provision of pardoning power or mercy was first originated within the UK and from there it spread to other countries like the U.S.A. and in India. In the U.S. Constitution, the provisions associated with power are given in Article II Section 2, Clause 1.

In the Constitution of the U.S.A., ‘the President has the ability to grant pardon to the offences which are committed against the u. s. of America except within the cases associated with impeachment. The power of the President is merely restricted to the cognizable offences given under federal law. The President can grant pardons, partial pardons, commutation of sentences, partial commutation of sentences, remissions of fines, and forfeiture. 

The President of the U.S.A. has the power to deny or accept all the pardon petitions. Contempt of courts doesn’t come under the pardonable offences. It is not the offence against the state but it is the offence against the dignity and decorum of the court. In the u. s. of America, the pardoning power may be exercised in absolute, unfettered, and in an unrestricted manner.


 In my opinion, without diving much deeper into this scenario. I feel the mercy petition should have some restricted conditions and points in time. Mercy petition acts as a double-edged sword which may be both boon or bane counting on true and circumstances. Unnecessary hurdles and delays in approving the mercy petition can cause severe discomfort to both the convicts and also the victims. This will unintentionally delay justice and victims can never get access to proper and unbiased justice. This may further intensify the victim’s pain and suffering. We would like to correct limitation period and proper policies to limit the unnecessary delay in filing and granting mercy petition for correct facilitation and smooth functioning of the Indian judiciary.