President Pratibha Patil [ Images ] has commuted the death sentence of 35 people to life imprisonment, the highest by any head of state in three decades.
However, the first woman President of the country rejected mercy petitions of five people who had committed heinous crimes, including the assassins of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi [ Images ].
A Rashtrapati Bhavan [ Images ] spokesperson said the President commuted the death sentence of 35 people involved in 19 cases.
Among those whose mercy petitions were accepted are those convicted of mass murder, kidnapping, rape and killing of children.
On June 2, Patil gave her pardon to four more -- Bandu Baburao Tidke from Karnataka [ Images ], Buntu from Uttar Pradesh [ Images ] and Lalchand alias Laliya Dhoom and Shiv Lal from Rajasthan [ Images ].
As a swami of Sadashiva Appana Math, Bagalkot, Tidke abducted a 16-year-old schoolgirl, raped and murdered her. UP's Bantu, on death row since July 2008, was convicted of raping and killing a five-year-old girl.
On February 9, she accepted the clemency petition of Sushil Murmu, pending since 2004, who was convicted for giving 'bali' (sacrifice) of a nine-year-old-boy in Jharkhand for his own prosperity.
Since 1981, 91 convicts sought commutation of their death sentences to life imprisonment. Of these, 31 petitions were accepted, out of which 23 were during Patil's five-year tenure.
In fact, almost all the convicts pardoned are guilty of the most blood-curdling crimes. Piara Singh, Sarabjit Singh, Gurdev Singh and Satnam Singh had massacred 17 of a family at a marriage function. Gopi and Mohan (Tamil Nadu) and Molai Ram and Santosh (Madhya Pradesh [ Images ]) had raped and murdered little girls.
Patil, however, rejected the petitions of five individuals who include Rajiv Gandhi's three killers and Davinder Pal Singh and Mahedra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered Harakanta Das, the then secretary of the Guwahati Truck Drivers Association.