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India high court says presidential death row pardons subject to review

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [offical website] Wednesday ruled that the power of the country's president to pardon a person convicted of a capital offense in Article 72 of the Indian Constitution [text] is subject to judicial review in the face of "extraneous consideration[s]" such as caste or religious or political affiliation. The decision stems from the case of Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim who received the death penalty for participating in the 2001 attack on India's parliament [BBC report]. Human rights groups and Kashmiris have recently applied pressure on current president Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam [official website] to grant clemency to Guru, who is scheduled to be executed on October 20. Wednesday's ruling all but assures that the execution will be postponed, since any pardon decisions typically take months or even years, and are now subject to judicial review.

In 2005, the Court affirmed [JURIST report] Guru's sentence and ordered that he be hanged. Kalam has recently made headlines for pushing a more liberal and compassionate approach [Indian Express report] to his office's pardon power. AFP has more.

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