New Delhi: After the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab, the big question remains whether his execution will be delayed just like that of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Afzal Guru's death sentence was upheld by the apex court for carrying out the Parliament attack in 2001, but he continues to live as his mercy plea lies pending with the President. Guru applied for mercy in 2005. The Home Ministry cleared his file recommending rejection only in 2011.
The then home minister P Chidambaram cited a queue for time lapse. Chidambaram said, "Guru is no. 21 on the list of 22. Why are we jumping the guns?"
Kasab now has similar legal options. He can file a review application before the Supreme Court on technical grounds of a specific legal lacunae or omission. If rejected, he can seek mercy from the Maharashtra Governor. If that, too, is rejected, he can file a mercy plea with the President of India.
The President works on the mercy plea on the advice of the Home Ministry. As of now, 16 mercy pleas are pending with the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The Union Home Ministry has one pending file. Afzal Guru is sixth on the Presidential list.
"Let Kasab apply for mercy first. He has to first file a mercy plea before the governor of the state, and if that gets rejected, he can file a mercy plea before the President," Home Secretary RK Singh said.
Law doesn't set a time limit for the President to dispose mercy pleas, but the question is whether the new occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhawan will bridge this gap in the justice system.