President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected the mercy petition of Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik who raped and killed a three-year-old girl in Maharashtra's Amrawati district on March 2, 2007. With this, Mukherjee has signed 22 death warrants involving 29 people in last two years of his Presidency besides commuting sentence to life imprisonment in one case.
Those sent to gallows include Mumbai attack convict Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru, who was found guilty in Parliament attack case. In Wasnik's case, the President agreed with the advice of Home Ministry and rejected his mercy plea on July 31. The President has already rejected five petitions last month including that of Nithari serial killer Surinder Koli.
The Supreme Court bench comprising justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar had held on February 29, 2012 that Wasnik deserved capital punishment as he was a married man of 31 years who committed the offence on the pretext of buying the girl biscuits.
"First and foremost is that the crime committed by the accused is heinous. In fact, it is not only heinous, but is a brutal and inhuman crime where a married person, aged 31 years, chooses to lure a three year old minor girl child on the pretext of buying her biscuits and then commits rape on her," the apex court bench had ruled.
The President has only commuted the death sentence for Atbir who was found guilty of murdering three relatives over a property dispute. Atbir was sentenced to death by a sessions court in 2004 for the murder of his step-mother, step-sister and step-brother over a property dispute in 1996. The decision was upheld by the high court and Supreme Court in August 2010.
Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President is empowered to pardon or commute sentence of person convicted of any offence. The President is guided by home minister and the council of ministers.