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President’s powers to pardon- in US India

Topics Covered: Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.

President’s powers to pardon- in US, India:


US President Donald Trump recently exercised his powers under the Constitution to pardon Michael Flynn, his former National Security Advisor, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

What is the extent of the US President’s power to pardon?

  • US President has the constitutional right to pardon or commute sentences related to federal crimes.
  • This power is granted without limit and cannot be restricted by Congress.
  • Similarly, Clemency is a broad executive power, and is discretionary- meaning the President is not answerable for his pardons, and does not have to provide a reason for issuing one.


  • This power cannot be exercised in cases of impeachment.
  • The power only applies to federal crimes and not state crimes.

Clemency powers of the Indian President under article 72:

It says that the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence.

The President can exercise these powers:

  • In all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court martial;
  • In all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;
  • In all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.

Key facts:

  1. This power of pardon shall be exercised by the President on the advice of Council of Ministers.
  2. The constitution does not provide for any mechanism to question the legality of decisions of President or governors exercising mercy jurisdiction.
  3. But the SC in Epuru Sudhakar case has given a small window for judicial review of the pardon powers of President and governors for the purpose of ruling out any arbitrariness.


Prelims Link:

  1. Pardoning powers of President vs Governors in India.
  2. Applicability of judicial review.
  3. Article 72 is related to?
  4. US President’s power to pardon.

Mains Link:

Present a detailed comparison of pardoning powers of president and Governor in India.

Sources: Indian Express.