President’s prerogative to mercy
In a very recent instance of exercise of the president’s right to pardon, a convicted killer had his life term remitted to ten years. What makes this act absurd is the fact that this very person, Biplob, son of Laxmipur AL leader, who was convicted in another murder case and awarded the death penalty, was given the presidential reprieve in July last year.
One wonders whether one has ever heard of another instance, not only in Bangladesh but anywhere else in the world, where the same person, a convicted killer, has been granted presidential pardon twice in seven months, once to save his life, and then to reduce his sentence.
The manner of exercising presidential prerogative like pardoning several death row prisoners belonging to AL cadre, and giving reprieve to the son of a senior AL member, convicted on charges of corruption and sentenced to 18 years in prison and fined Tk.1.5 crore, without him even surrendering to the court, only betrays the partisan motive behind these actions.
The president has all the right to clemency but he has all the obligations to be just also. While being kind to the killers, as the ministry letter explains, should he have not also considered the grief of the family members of the murder victims, and the much bigger question of justice and rule of law?
We must emphasise that the power of Presidential pardon is a prerogative that should be exercised in the most exceptional circumstances and with utmost prudence so that none can question the intention. Otherwise it would harm both the esteem of the office of the president and the reputation of the person occupying it.
May we ask what the criteria that qualify a convict for presidential pardon are? Surely a person who has been convicted in multiple cases of murder, cannot qualify as a ‘good’ man, and should automatically forfeit the right to any special consideration. The reprieves have done little for the cause of justice
President Zillur Rahman in his own right has earned the respect of the people of Bangladesh. However, such actions are bound to raise questions about their likely impact on rule of law.