Short essay on death sentence and presidential clemency


The President has the power to grant pardon, reprieve or remission of punishment, or commute the sentence of any person punished by court martial, or where the sentence is for an offence against a law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the union extends. Article 72 says that he is the only authority for pardoning a sentence of death.

In fact, the terms ‘pardons’, ‘reprieves’, ‘respites’, ‘remission’ and ‘commutation’, carry different meanings. A pardon is an act of grace. It cannot be demanded as a matter of right. A par-don not only removes the punishment but also places the offender in the same position, as if he had never committed the offence. Hence, the power to grant pardon is purely an executive function.

Reprieve means a temporary suspension of the punishment fixed by the law. Respite means postponement of the execution of a sentence to future. Remission means reduction in the amount of punishment without changing the character of punishment e.g., a life sentence is reduced to imprisonment for ten years. Commutation means changing a punishment to one of a different sort than originally proposed e.g. a death sentence is changed into life imprisonment.


But the court can interfere only where the presidential decision is wholly irrelevant to the object of Art. 72 or is irrational, arbitrary, discreminatory or malafide.

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