NEW DELHI, June 26: India's outgoing president has defended herself against media criticism that she went on a ‘mercy overdrive’ during her term by granting clemency to nearly three dozen convicts on death row.

Pratibha Patil, who became India's first woman president in 2007 and leaves office next month, commuted 35 death sentences to life imprisonment during her five years in the post — more than any other head of state before her.

The Indian media has generally been critical of her record on the issue, questioning why clemency was deemed appropriate in some cases involving murder, rape and child abduction.

“President Pratibha Patil goes on mercy overdrive,” was the verdict of the Times of India, while the Mail Today questioned her motives. “In her apparent over-zealousness to come across as the apostle of mercy, she appears to have glossed over some gruesome details,” it said. In a statement issued by her office late Monday, Ms Patil defended her choices, insisting she “took well considered decisions” after taking the advice of the home minister. “A queer pitch has been created as though many brutal criminals have been shown mercy and released,” the statement said.—AFP


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