Friday, April 28, 2017

Pardoning Power of Indian President & its Comparison with Governor

This article has been written by Sachin Vashisht for PADMAD.ORG with minor additions from Harshit Dwivedi

The President of India has the power to give pardons to people who have been convicted for any offence.

This power of the President is mentioned in Article 72 of the Indian Constitution according to which the punishment of a convicted criminal can be pardoned in the following cases:

1. When the punishment for the offence is for violating a Union law.
2. When the Punishment is by a court martial.
3. When the punishment is a death sentence.

This power of the President to pardon the sentences is independent of the Judiciary system which means that it is an executive power.

The objective to provide the President with such power is to prevent the judicial system from making any wrong judgments and if they are made, then a provision was kept open to correct them and to give relief to very harsh punishments.

The pardoning power of the president is of five types:


Pardon removes the punishment and the conviction of a person.

This means that if a person was wrongly convicted of a crime, then by using the pardoning power, the president can absolve such a person from all his punishments and disqualifications.


By using the commutation power, the president can replace one form of punishment with a lighter form of punishment.

Like a death sentence can be eased down or commuted to rigorous imprisonment.

Also a sentence of rigorous imprisonment can be commuted to a simple imprisonment.


Remission means reducing the time period of the sentence without changing its type.

For example a person who is serving a rigorous imprisonment of 10 years, will still be serving rigorous imprisonment even if the time period is remitted to 5 years.


Using this power, the President can reduce the sentence of a person on the grounds of special circumstances such as physical disability or pregnancy of a woman convict.


Reprieve means stay order on the sentence for a temporary period of time.

This is generally given to the people who have been sentenced to death.

The sole purpose of this is to provide a convict with time, so that he can seek either a full pardon or a commutation from the president.

Pardoning Power of President compared with Governor

Apart from the President, the Governor of every state also has the pardoning powers.

This is provided by the Article 161 of Indian Constitution.

So the Governor can also provide pardons, reprieves, respites and commutation of sentences.

He can even suspend, remit and commute the sentence of a convicted person.

But the jurisdiction of the Governor only lies with the violation of state laws.

This means that if a person is convicted of breaking a State Law, he can ask for a pardon from the Governor of that state.

Pardoning power of the Governor differs from the pardoning power of the Indian President in the following ways:

1. The President has the power to grant pardons for the sentences and punishments given by the military courts.

2. The President can grant pardons for death sentences unlike the Governor. The important thing to note here is that while the president can completely pardon a death sentence, the Governor can only grant a suspension, remission or commutation to the death sentence. In simple words both the President and the Governor have similar powers of pardon, except the complete pardoning power of the president of a death sentence.

Principles laid down by the Supreme Court regarding the pardoning power of the President

1. The person or convict who is appealing for pardon has no right to a face to face hearing by the President

2. President has the luxury to examine the submitted evidence and take a different view that was taken by the court.

3. Pardoning power is to be used by the President on the advice of the Union Cabinet

4. The President does not have to give a reason for the decisions he takes regarding the pardoning power.

5. The President can provide relief from the current sentence of a person not only for a harsh punishment but also for an honest mistake.

6. The Supreme Court is not bound to lay down any specific rules for the use of power by the President.

7. The use of the pardoning power of the President is outside the scope of the judicial review except in cases where the decision made by the president is arbitrary, irrational, mala fide or discriminatory.

8. If an appeal for mercy has been rejected by the President, then a second appeal cannot be filed for reprieve by the same person.

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