Explain the pardoning powers of the President. How is it different from the Governor’s pardoning power?

Explain the pardoning powers of the President. How is it different from the Governor’s pardoning power?


The President of India under Article 72 of the Constitution is empowered to pardon, reprieve, respite or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence:

  1. In all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court martial;
  2. In all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against a Union law;
  3. In all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death


1. The pardoning power of the President is independent of the Judiciary; it is an executive power. This power is exercised by the President on the advice of the Cabinet. The object of conferring this power on the President is two-fold:

  • to keep the door open for correcting any judicial errors in the operation of law
  • to afford relief from a sentence, which the President regards as unduly harsh.

2. The pardoning power includes:

  • Pardon: It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments and disqualifications.
  • Commutation: It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment for a lighter form. For example, a death sentence may be commuted to rigorous imprisonment, which in turn may be commuted to a simple imprisonment.
  • Remission: It implies reducing the period of sentence without changing its character. For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.
  • Respite: It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded due to some special facts, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender.
  • Reprieve: It implies a stay of the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period. Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the President.


Power conferred by Article 72Power conferred by Article 161
President can grant pardon to any person convicted against Union lawGovernor can exercise pardoning power only against a crime under the respective state law not a union law.
Pardoning power extends to military court also.Governor has no such powers.
The power to grant ‘pardon’ can be used even against a death sentence by the President in Union and states.Governor cannot pardon a death sentence even under a state law. In such case the power to grant ‘pardon’ rests with the President only. However, a Governor can remit, commute and suspend a death sentence.

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