PC Hedges On Afzal12 August 2011
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
New Delhi: Home minister P. Chidambaram today took refuge in a technicality to say that no decision had been taken on Afzal Guruís mercy petition, reflecting the Centreís desire to avoid any political mess. Technically, the decision on a mercy petition is taken by the President, but it is the home minister who recommends what should be done. Chidambaramís ministry has not denied media reports that it has advised President Pratibha Patil to reject Afzalís mercy plea. ďThe President will take a decision. There is no decision on the mercy petition,Ē Chidambaram told reporters. Earlier this week, junior home minister M. Ramachandran had said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha that the petition had been forwarded to the President on July 27. The government had sat on the file for five years. Still, the Centre may not want to publicly acknowledge its advice to reject the mercy petition lest it spark a situation in Kashmir, from where Afzal hails. Separatists have threatened ďa storm of protestsĒ in the Valley if he is hanged and even the state government and Opposition appear to be against the Parliament attack convictís execution. Afzal has been convicted of plotting the December 2001 attack and the Supreme Court has confirmed his death sentence. Security officers have said that Afzal used to help the security agencies once. Ramachandranís reply in Parliament, to a question from BJP member Prakash Javadekar, was tucked away in a sheet of written answers. It was noticed by reporters and pursued into the corridors of power. The circumstances suggest the Centre wanted the facts kept under wraps. Therefore, at his last routine monthly meeting with reporters, Chidambaram had not explicitly said that the petition had been forwarded to the President.