Thursday, February 24, 2011

President and Governors can’t pronounce a convict innocent: SC

‘They May Grant Pardon, But It Is For Courts To Convict Or Acquit’
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the President and governors, while granting pardon to a convict by a court of law, could not encroach upon the judiciary’s domain and pronounce him innocent.
   “The powers of the court of law in a criminal trial and subsequent appeal right up to the SC and that of the President/governor under Article 72/161 of the Constitution operate in totally different arenas and the nature of these two powers are also totally different from each other. One should not trench upon the other,” a Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said.
   Punjab governor S F Rodrigues, while granting pardon to three persons convicted in a murder case, committed the mistake of recording their innocence and said they were fighting to secure justice for a rape victim.
   “The instant order of the governor, by pronouncing upon the innocence of the accused, has therefore, if we may say so with respect, exceeded the permissible constitutional limits under Article 161 of the Constitution,” Justice Ganguly, who wrote the judgment for the Bench, said.
   The Bench set aside the governor’s order pardoning Manjit Singh while noting that two others — Narain Dutt and Prem Kumar — had already been acquitted by the high court. It remanded the matter back to the governor for reconsideration.
   The Bench said constitutional courts have a limited power to review governor’s power to grant pardon under Article 161 of the Constitution. However, it said the governor’s order suffered from a vital lacuna — observations relating to guilt or innocence of the accused persons.
   “It is well settled that to decide on the innocence or otherwise of an accused person in a criminal trial is within the exclusive domain of a court of competent jurisdiction as this is essentially a judicial function,” Justice Ganguly said.

SC decides open court hearing in Bhopal case:
The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to hear in open court on Monday the Union government’s plea for review of a 22-year-old settlement by which the US-based Union Carbide paid $470 million to compensate victims of the Bhopal gas leak.

   All curative petitions are heard in the judges’ chamber without the lawyers being present. However, the departure from the tradition signified the importance of the issue involved. The Centre’s curative petition, filed on December 3 last year, was taken up in chamber for discussion by a five-judge Bench compris-ing Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and Aftab Alam.

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