Pranab equals Pratibha, in 7 months

New Delhi, Feb. 9: Pranab Mukherjee signed the file rejecting Afzal Guru's mercy petition last Sunday, the same day that he put his stamp on the ordinance that provides for death for killer rapists.

With this, the President has disposed of four mercy petitions, rejecting three, in less than seven months since he took over on July 25, 2012.

Ajmal Kasab's was the first mercy plea he rejected, on November 5. The Pakistani gunman was hanged on November 21.

The second was that of Saibanna Ningappa Natikar, on January 4. Saibanna was convicted for the murder of his first wife. While on parole in September 1994, suspecting the fidelity of his second wife, he killed her and his daughter and attempted to commit suicide. He is lodged in a Karnataka jail.

Mukherjee has already equalled the record of his immediate predecessor, Pratibha Patil, who rejected three mercy petitions in her five years in office. She granted 19 clemency requests.

The three she rejected included that of Rajiv Gandhi's assassins T. Suthethiraja alias Santhan, Sriharan alias Murugan and G. Perarivalan alias Arivu. However, the Supreme Court stayed the execution on a fresh appeal by the convicts.

The first mercy petition President Patil rejected was that of Mahender Nath Das, in May 2011. Das was convicted of beheading a colleague and carrying his head to a police station.

The same month, she rejected the clemency plea of Devinder Singh Bhullar, convicted for 1993 bomb blast opposite a Youth Congress office in Delhi that killed nine.

When Patil demitted office, 11 mercy petitions were pending before the President, including Afzal's. Afzal's wife Tabassum had filed the petition before Patil's predecessor, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in 2006. President Kalam, whose term ended in 2007, had rejected one mercy petition, that of Dhananjay Chatterjee, who was hanged in 2004.

But some Presidents did not show as much mercy. R. Venkatraman rejected 33 petitions and Zail Singh 20.

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