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Sep 28, 2011 at 08:49am IST

Afzal clemency: Debate in J&K Assembly today

New Delhi: On July 27, 2011 Union Ministry for Home Affairs sent Mohammed Afzal Guru's mercy petition to the President recommending that the clemency plea be rejected.

It seemed to be all but the end of the road for the Parliament attack convict till Engineer Rashid, Independent member of J&K Assembly stepped in. Taking a cue from the Tamil Nadu Assembly's resolution in favour of Rajiv Gandhi assassins, Rashid moved a motion in J&K assembly seeking clemency for Guru.

Rashid said, "I had a meeting with the Chief Minister and I hope he supports the resolution. Mere tweeting would not do,he has to come forward."

In 2004 Guru was sentenced to death by Supreme Court for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack. On October 20, 2006 the day Guru was to be hanged till death, the hanging was stalled after Guru's wife Tabassum appealed for mercy.

On November 9, 2006 Guru himself wrote to President APJ Abdul Kalam saying sorry for Parliament attack and pleading for mercy.

The plea was forwarded to Union Home ministry which five years later decided that no mercy should be shown to Afzal Guru.

Now the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir Assembly is all set to hear Engineer Rashid's motion. Ruling National Conference has kept its cards close to its chest even though it was Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who started the controversy by tweeting 'if the reaction would have been the same had J&K done a Tamil Nadu'; but Kashmir's main Opposition party, PDP is set to support the motion.

Mehbooba Mufti said, "We are against capital punishment and on Afzal Guru we demand clemency. When Nallani was pardoned even when she assassinated an icon like Rajiv Gandhi, Guru's clemency plea should also be considered."

While an Assembly resolution can only exert political and moral pressure in favour of a death row convict. Legal experts hope that the Madras High Court hearing the case of Rajiv Gandhi assassins will set the law straight on whether a death sentence be converted to life owing to delay in government decision making on his/her mercy plea.