Decision On Afzal Soon: Shinde

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President Returns Guru File, 6 Ors For MHA Re-look 

SRINAGAR – Hours after 26/11 Mumbai attack convict, Ajmal Kasab, was quietly hanged in Pune’s Yerawada Central Jail, union home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, said the government would take a decision on the mercy petition of parliament attack convict, Muhammad Afzal Guru, “within 48 hours.” 

Quoting official sources, reports said the president, Pranab Mukherjee, had returned seven mercy petition files, including that of Guru, to the home ministry seeking a re-look at its earlier opinion.

Sources said the president sent back the petitions as he wanted the new home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, to reconfirm the recommendations made on these pleas during the tenure of his predecessor, P Chidambaram. They said there had been some doubt in the president’s mind about the seven petitions after some retired judges had sought to know if the MHA had taken into consideration the mental state of the death row convicts while recommending rejection of the mercy plea.

Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Shinde said there would be no further delay in the decision over Guru’s pending mercy petition. “2001 parliament attack convict, Guru’s file will not remain pending any longer. In the next 48 hours, I will take a decision on his file after it is received back from the president,” he said. 

Denying that the decision to hang Ajmal Kasab had been taken quietly by the Congress Core Group at its recent meeting, Shinde said even the UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, and the prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, were, in fact, were clueless about it. He said the decision on his hanging had not been taken under any pressure. 

Observers said the rapid developments on the pending mercy petitions may take pressure off the government for taking a decision earlier than expected on Guru’s plea in view of Mumbai attack convict’s hanging this morning. 

It may be recalled Guru was arrested for his alleged involvement in parliament attack in 2001 with several courts sentencing him to death penalty. He was one of two men sentenced to death. But, following his appeal, the sentence of Shaukat Husain was later changed to 10 years in jail. The Delhi High Court upheld the death sentence in 2003 and his appeal was further rejected by the Supreme Court two years later. The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on October 20, 2006. However, Guru’s execution was stayed following a mercy plea filed by his wife.  

On August 4, 2005, the union home ministry had sent the mercy petition filed by his wife to the president. Incidentally, the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Omar Abdullah, has made his views against Guru’s hanging known on several occasions, while several mainstream parties and separatist organizations have warned against any such move. 

Meanwhile, welcoming Kasab’s hanging the BJP has questioned the delay over Guru’s mercy petition. The party’s senior leader, Ravi Shanker Prasad, and Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, and Congress leader, Digvijay Singh, have urged expeditious decision on Guru’s petition. 

Reports said it was not unusual for a president to return pending mercy petitions for a re-look in case of change of the home minister. The procedure was followed when P Chidambaram had taken over from Shivraj Patil in 2008.

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