After seven years, the go-ahead has been given for execution of two murder convicts that could start the process of clearing the long list of death row convicts, including Afzal Guru and Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts, awaiting punishment.
President Pratibha Patil has rejected the mercy petitions of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar of Punjab and Mahendra Nath Das of Assam following the recommendations from the Union Home Ministry, sources in the Ministry said.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan declined to comment.
Bhullar was sentenced to death by a trial court on August 25, 2001, for plotting terror attacks on Punjab SSP Sumedh Singh Saini in 1991 and the then Youth Congress president M S Bitta in 1993, which led to several deaths in Delhi.
A couple of days ago, Bhullar's advocate K T S Tulsi had urged in the Supreme Court that either his mercy petition should be decided expeditiously or alternatively his death sentence be commuted.
The President has also rejected the mercy petition of Das who has been found guilty of murdering one Hara Kanta Das.
This is for the first time since 2004, when the go ahead has been given for the execution of Dhanjay Chatterjee, that the President has given the nod for any execution.
While the Opposition parties have lashed out at the "delay" in taking a decision on Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru's petition, Home Minister P Chidambaram had said there was no fixed time for deciding the mercy petitions.
Chidambaram has been adopting a policy of going serial wise on deciding mercy petitions since taking over the charge of the Home Ministry in 2008.
At least 15 cases have been referred and decision obtained in 11. The case of three persons sentenced to death in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and two other terrorist cases were higher in the order than the Afzal Guru case.
Guru's wife Tabasum Afzal had petitioned the President on October 3, 2006, for commutation of his death sentence. The Delhi government was asked for its view. The Delhi government's comments were furnished by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi in June 2010 and they are under examination of the Home Ministry for submission to the President.
Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President is empowered to grant pardon and commute the death sentence of a convict. She can also suspend and remit the death sentence of a condemned prisoner, albeit with the advice of the Union government.