Ram Nath Kovind rejects his first mercy plea on murder case that shook Bihar in 2006

President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected a mercy petition, his first since he took over charge at Rashtrapati Bhawan. The mercy plea was filed by Jagat Rai, who is convicted in the killing of 7 members of a family in Bihar in 2006. President Kovind had held detailed consultations for 10 months since assuming the charge, according to a report by The Indian Express.
Union Home Ministry officials told The Indian Express that Rai’s mercy petition was originally sent in 2017 to the then President Pranab Mukherjee. But Mukherjee could not take any decision since the process to elect the 14th President had been initiated. The report says that President Kovind rejected Rai’s petition only after seeking legal opinion and consultations with the Home Ministry.
Former President Mukherjee had rejected a total of 30 mercy pleas, including pleas filed by Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasav. Mukherjee granted the pardon in for cases. His record of rejecting mercy pleas is second only to President R Venkataraman (1987-92) who declined 45 mercy pleas. President K R Narayanan (1997-2002) did not act on any mercy petition while his successor President Abdul Kalam (2002-2007) disposed of two mercy pleas. President Pratibha Patil (2007-2012) commuted sentences in 34 mercy pleas and rejected only five.
Rai had killed five children and the wife of one Vijendra Mahato by setting their house on fire while they were fast asleep on the night of January 1, 2006 at Rampur Shyamchand village in Vaishali district of Bihar. The gruesome murder hit the headlines then as motive behind this cruel act shocked the conscience of the people. Rai held a grudge against poor Mahato as the latter had refused to withdraw a police case against Jagat Rai, Wazir Rai and Ajay Rai. He had accused them of stealing his buffalo.On the night of January 1, 2006, when Mahato’s wife Baby Devi, sons Suraj, Anil and Rajesh and daughters Poonam and Neelam, were asleep, their house was torched by the accused and their associates. Mahato was seriously injured and succumbed to injuries from burn. Before his death, he deposed in court.