1) Introduction -

   Under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution, President has the power to grant pardons.  In America also the President can grant pardon for offence against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. Is Nanavati's case, the Supreme Court held that in view of the language of Arts. 72 and 161,  which was similar to that is used in section 295(2) of the Government of India Act, 1935, and also similar to that used in Article 2 Section 2 of the American Constitution; the president and Governor, in India, had the same powers of pardon in its nature and effect, as is enjoyed by the king in Great Britain and the President of The United States. Therefore in India also the Pardon power can be exercised before, during or after Trial.

See...    Powers of the President  

2) Pardoning Powers of President -

          The President of India is empowered under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution to grant pardon to a Convict in case of offense against Union law, sentenced or punished by Court Martial, sentenced to death.

3) Object -

          The object of conferring the judicial power on the president is to correct possible judicial errors, for no human system of judicial administration can be free from imperfections.

Article 72 (1) The President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence-

         (a) in all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial;

         (b) in all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;

         (c) in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.

(2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the power conferred by law on any officer of the Armed Forces of the Union to suspend, remit or commute a sentence passed by a Court Martial.

(3) Nothing in sub-clause (c) of clause (1) shall affect the power to suspend, remit or commute a sentence of death exercisable by the Governor of a State under any law for the time being in force.

Pardon - A pardon completely absolves the offender from all sentences and punishment and disqualifications and places him in the same position as if he had never committed the offence.

Commutation- Commutation means exchange of one thing for another. In simple words to replace the punishment with less severe punishment. e.g for Rigorous imprisonment-simple imprisonment.

Reprieves - Reprieve means temporary suspension of death sentence. for example-  pending a proceeding for pardon or commutation.

Respites - Respite means awarding a lesser punishment on some special grounds. for example-  the Pregnancy of women offender.

Remissions -  Remission means the reduction of the amount of sentence without changing its character, for example, a sentence of 1 year may be remitted to 6 months. In other words, it reduces the period of sentence, but the character of punishment remains same.

4) Relevant cases -

   Maru Ram vs. Union of India [(1980(1) SCC 107]

        In this case, Court held that in exercising pardoning power the object and spirit of Section 433(A) of Cr.P.C must be kept view. The Pawar under Article 72 is to be exercised on the advice of the central government and not by the President on his own. The advice of the government binds the president.

    Kedar Singh vs Union of India [1989(1) SCC 204]

In this case, Court held that Pardoning power is an act of grace and not a matter of right. It is administrative power and not justifiable in the court of law.

See also 

Privilege of the President

Rule of law and the Constitution of India


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