"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pot Calling the Kettle Black- An aside on Bhullar

Bhullar has been in focus recently for different reasons. Effect of delay in execution of capital punishment, pardoning power of the President and Governor, judicial review of the order of the President/Governor, being the prominent aspects. The distinguishing feature of Bhullar who was denied commutation from the cases where delay in execution was a permissive ground for commutation by judiciary, is the nature of offenses he was charged with. The court in unequivocal terms held that a terrorist deserves no mercy. The court's reasoning here (see para 40) seems pedestrian when it argue that by annihilating the human rights of many, the terrorist expunge his inalienable human rights and therefore deserves no pardon. 

The court rejects the plea on the ground that it does not find the President's order reviewable as it does not fall within the parameters of review laid down in holding precedents. The question in the petition was not on the quality of President's order but the quantity of time it took, which resulted in denial of his fundamental and human rights. Court dodged this issue by the judgmental stand it took in the paragraph mentioned earlier. 

What struck me while reading this judgment is another observation made by the judges on the delay in taking decisions in petitions for pardon. To quote the court "... the statistics ... show that between 1950 and 2009, over 300 mercy petitions were filed of which 214 were accepted by the President and the sentence of death was commuted into life imprisonment. 69 petitions were rejected by the President. ... However, about 18 petitions filed between 1999 and 2011 remained pending for a period ranging from 1 year to 13 years." Judges call this delay 'disturbing phenomena'. I took this opportunity to glance through the statistics of pendency of litigation, which is predicted to touch exponential figure of 15 crores by 2040. It could be argued that it is an exaggerated figure, even then, the past year's statistics does not give any confidence in the judiciary's efficiency to deal with its own affaires. I am tempted to ask " Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Luke 6:41)

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