PARDONING POWERS OF THE GOVERNORS IN INDIA – AN OVERVIEW

INTRODUCTION

The Constitution of India empowers the President and the Governor with pardoning powers. Several countries such as the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, etc., have similar provisions for granting pardons to convicts. Such provisions are based on the spirit of humanity and grace. Article 72 and Article 161 of the Constitution relate to the pardoning powers of the President and the Governor respectively.  The pardoning powers of both the President and the Governor are parallel to each other.

PARDONING POWERS OF THE GOVERNORS

Article 161 of the Constitution deals with the pardoning powers of the Governor. The Governor is empowered to grant pardons, respites, remissions or reprieve of punishment to the convicted person. The Governor may also commute, suspend or remit the sentence. The power of the Governors to grant such reliefs extends only to those cases where the executive authority of their respective states has the requisite jurisdiction. In this regard, we see that the pardoning powers of the President have a wider scope than those of the Governors.  

The pardoning powers can be exercised before the trial, at any point during the trial or after the conviction. Recently, the Supreme Court held that the Governor can exercise his pardoning powers even after the convicted person has spent 14 or more years in prison. The duration of the sentence already undergone by the prisoner does not affect the pardoning powers of the Governor.

While the Governor has to follow the advice of the State Government in respect to the exercise of the powers granted under Article 161, there is no prescribed time period within which the Governor must make a decision.

LANDMARK CASES

The Supreme Court can exercise the power of judicial review over pardoning orders issued by the Governor. In the landmark case of Epuru Sudhakar and Anr. v Government of Andhra Pradesh and Ors, a remission order was passed by the Governor of Andhra Pradesh. The Apex Court found no reasonable grounds behind this order and subsequently directed for the setting aside of the remission order. The Court held that the decision of the Governor was based on irrelevant materials and such an order was liable to be set aside by the Court.

Similarly, in the case of Satpal v State of Haryana, the Governor pardoned a person who was convicted of the offense of murder. The Supreme Court found no reasonable grounds behind the order and quashed the pardon issued by the Governor. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that the sentence served by the convict, the behavior and conduct of the convict during this period, etc., must be taken into consideration while exercising the pardoning powers.

Thus, in light of the aforementioned judgments, we see that the decisions taken by the Governor in the exercise of the pardoning powers granted under Article 161 of the Constitution can be subjected to judicial review.

CONCLUSION

While the provisions relating to pardoning powers are an essential element of any civilized society, these powers must be exercised with extreme caution. Those exercising such powers must act in a rational way and must be influenced by any sort of bias or partiality.

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