Former Law Commission Chairman Justice A P Shah today favoured a recommendation that a death row convict should get 90 days to challenge rejection of his mercy petition, saying that it was essential as matter of life and death was being dealt. "The recommendation that there should be 90 days time to challenge the mercy rejection is a very good one. And it should be accepted. Three months period should be there as we are dealing with life and death of a prisoner. "So, I think 90 days period is reasonable," he said responding to a recommendation made by NGO, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), in its book 'The Status of Mercy Petitions in India' released by the ex-judge here. At the same time, the former Delhi High Court chief justice termed as "not feasible" another recommendation of the ACHR which said that the Government should establish a panel on mercy petition. "In my view it is not feasible. It must be remembered that mercy petitions involve an exercise of Constitutional power and to hand over the power to an extra-Constitutional panel, would be outright unconstitutional.
Therefore, I respectfully do not agree with this recommendation of having a citizen's panel to assist President in dealing with mercy petitions," Shah said. Responding to a question on why the Law Commission under him did not recommend abolition of death penalty even in terror-related cases, Justice (retd) Shah said the panel found that in many countries, the abolition of death penalty came in stages, in phase-wise manner. "So, we thought that perhaps it has to be done in a phase wise manner. And therefore, the report is that the abolition of the death penalty should be the goal. But it may be done in a phase-wise manner. And since nearly 90-95 per cent of the death row convicts are for ordinary offences, we thought that the beginning should be with the 302 and the non-terror sections," he said. The 20th Law Commission whose term ended on August 31, had recommended abolition of death penalty except in cases of terror and those convicted of waging war against India. Two part-time members and one full-time member of the panel had opposed the recommendation. Sources in the government say that the Union Home Ministry is likely to reject the recommendation as there is a feeling that time is not ripe in India to abolish capital punishment. The event was also attended by ex-member of National Human Rights Commission Satyabrata Pal, deputy head of European Union delegation to India Cesare Onestini and ACHR director Suhas Chakma.