Constitutional & Administrative Law

Pardoning Powers of the President of India

Previous Year Question(s):

Q. Explain the pardoning powers of the President. Examine how far the Judicial Review can be exercised over such powers. 

Important Observations:

  • Article 72 empowers the President to grant pardon, reprieve, respite or remission of punishment, or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence in all cases— (a) where the punishment or sentence is by a court martial; (b) where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against a law relating to a matter to which the Union’s executive power extends; and (c) of a death sentence.
  • Reprieve means stay of the execution of sentence; respite denotes postponement of execution of a sentence; pardon means to forgive, to excuse; remission reduces the amount of a sentence without changing its character and commutation is changing the sentence to a higher penalty of a different form.

Important Case Laws:

  • Kehar Singh v Union of India – The power to pardon is a constitutional responsibility of great significance, to be exercised when occasion arises in accordance with the discretion contemplated by the context.
  • In re Channugadu – The scope of the power conferred on the President by Art. 72 is very extensive. It extends to the whole of India. The power to grant pardon may be exercised either before conviction by amnesty to the accused or under-trial prisoner or after conviction. 
  • Maru Ram v. Union of India – It is not open to the President to take an independent decision or to direct release or refuse release of any one of his own choice. The Supreme Court insisted that although the power of pardon is very wide, ‘it cannot run riot’. The power under Article 72 is not to be exercised on ‘wholly irrelevant, irrational, discriminatory or mala fide’ considerations.
  • Epuru Sudhakar v. Govt. of A.P. – Considerations of religion, caste or political loyalty are irrelevant and prohibited.

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