Can Article 161 of Indian Constitution Save a Criminal?

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In India’s legal framework, the importance of the Constitution is inevitable. Article 161 of Indian Constitution, a provision is often ignored but holds much importance in the judicial system as well as state governance. Article 161 describes the power given to the Governor of a state to grant pardons. This article improves the criminal justice system. It gives criminals one more chance to come back to normal life. Let’s discuss Article 161 of the Indian Constitution in more depth.

Understanding Article 161 of Indian Constitution

161 is the article of Governor. It describes the part of the Executive Powers of the Governor. The article empowers the Governor of a state to grant pardons, reprieves, respites, or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit, or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against the law. This power is similar to the President’s power under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution at the state level.

The reason behind granting such powers to the Governor is to ensure that the justice system remains humane and flexible. It acts as a safety valve to rectify errors or injustices that may have occurred during the legal process. Moreover, it reflects the principle of separation of powers, where the executive branch holds the authority to exercise discretion in matters of clemency or mercy petition.

Types of Pardons

Mercy Petition
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A pardon completely absolves the convicted person of the crime and its punishments. It restores the person to the status they held before the conviction. Pardon refers to a clean chit to the convicted person. Can Governor Pardon death sentence? Read FAQ


Reprieve refers to the temporary suspension of the execution of a sentence or punishment. It provides a temporary break from the punishment. Usually, reprieve is granted to allow the individual time to appeal or seek legal recourse.


Respite provides the reduction of the quantum or degree of punishment. It is often granted in cases where the original sentence is too harsh or more than the crime committed.


Remission involves the reduction or mitigation of the sentence without completely eliminating it. The individual remains convicted, but the severity of the punishment is decreased.


Commutation involves the substitution of one form of punishment for another less severe form. For instance, a death sentence may be commuted to life imprisonment.

Limitations of Mercy Petition

While Article 161 of Indian Constitution grants wide decisive powers to the Governor, it’s not absolute. Some certain limitations and guidelines govern its exercise:

Pardoning power of governor
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Consultation with Council of Ministers:

The power to grant pardons lies with the Governor. However, it is commonly practised by the Governor to consult with the Council of Ministers, particularly the Chief Minister, before exercising this power. Ensures that the decision is well-informed and considers the views of the elected government representatives.

Judicial Review:

While the Governor’s decision in matters of clemency is final, it’s not immune to judicial review. If the exercise of this power is found arbitrary or mala fide, it can be challenged in a court of law.

Federal Structure:

India is a federal state, and the Governor’s powers are subject to the supremacy of the Constitution and the federal structure. The Governor cannot act in a manner that violates the principles of the Constitution or conflicts with the powers of other organs of the state.

Public Interest and Mercy:

The Governor must exercise discretion judiciously, taking into account factors such as public interest, justice, equity, and mercy. The primary objective behind granting pardons is to serve the cause of justice and not to weaken the rule of law.

Significance of Pardoning Power of Governor

The pardoning power of a Governor is an important part of the justice system. A Governor, who is the head of a state, can forgive or reduce the punishment of people who have committed crimes. This special ability is called the pardoning power of Governor.

This power is significant because it can help correct mistakes in the justice system. Sometimes, people might be punished too harshly, or new evidence might show they are not guilty. In such cases, the Governor can step in to ensure fairness. Article 161 of Indian Constitution helps maintain a sense of justice and mercy in the state.

The Governor’s pardoning power can also help rehabilitate people. For instance, if someone has shown good behaviour and truly changed while in prison, the Governor can reduce their sentence. The provision gives people a second chance to be better citizens and contribute positively to society.

Mercy Petition
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Understanding Article 161, an article related to Governor is crucial for aspirants preparing for India’s competitive examinations, particularly those aspiring for roles in the judiciary, civil services, or legal profession. Questions related to the powers and functions of constitutional offices, such as the Governor, are common in such exams. Moreover, a nuanced understanding of constitutional provisions reflects a deeper appreciation of India’s democratic ethos and governance structure.


Overall, the pardoning power of a Governor is like a safety net for the Indian judiciary system. It ensures that justice is balanced with mercy, allowing for the correction of mistakes and providing opportunities for redemption. This power is crucial in maintaining trust in the legal system and promoting fairness in society as it reflects the essence of India’s legal and governance framework.

Source: Google, and Wikipedia


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Can Governor Pardon Death Sentence?

No, Governor cannot Pardon a death sentence. He/she can only reprieve, remit or commute a death sentence. The President of India have power of pardoning a death sentence.

Is Article 161 related to Governor?

Yes, Article 161 of Indian Constitution

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