Anyone convicted under the stringent POCSO Act that seeks to protect minors from sexual abuse should not be allowed to file mercy plea if they face the gallows, President Ram Nath Kovind said today.
"Women safety is a serious issue. Rape convicts under POCSO Act should not have right to file mercy petition. Parliament should review mercy petitions," President Kovind said at an event in Rajasthan's Sirohi.
"Incidents of demonic attacks on women have shaken the conscience of the country," President Kovind said on a day the Telangana Police shot dead four accused in a rape-murder case of a veterinarian after they tried to escape during a visit to the crime scene for reconstruction.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) aims to shield minors from sexual abuse and exploitation through less ambiguous and more stringent legal provisions.
The President's comments come at a time when the Home Ministry, in agreement with the Delhi government's recommendation to reject a mercy plea of one of the accused in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, forwarded the file to him.
The government led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had rejected the mercy plea.
"I think there should be strict actions in such cases so that people think 10 times before doing something like this. This is why the Delhi government recommended that the President should not show any leniency in this case," Mr Kejriwal told reporters in Delhi last week.
"In the Nirbhaya case, the entire country had come out on roads. It has been several years since the incident. It is very saddening that the procedure took this long," he added.
Vinay Sharma, one of the convicts facing the gallows for the rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic student, had filed the mercy plea before the President.
The paramedic was returning home with a friend after watching a film in south Delhi in December 2012 when they boarded a bus. Five men and a juvenile were on the bus, who raped and tortured her, thrashed her friend and dumped them on the road on a cold December night.
Five men were convicted and sentenced to death. The minor was sent to a juvenile home and released under the law applicable for his age. One of the five men killed himself in jail. Of the four left, only one applied for mercy plea.