Panaji, July 30 (IANS) In what could be an unprecedented development in the history of Goa, the state’s BJP-led coalition government has resolved to grant pardon to convicted legislator Francisco Pacheco, who is serving a six-month sentence for assault, and has forwarded a petition in this regard to the governor.
Deputy Chief Minister Francisco D’Souza to IANS on Thursday that he has “signed” the petition circulated among the 12 ministers late on Wednesday and later forwarded it to Governor Mridula Sinha.
“I have signed it. It has gone to the governor,” D’Souza said, a day after the cabinet decision.
The cabinet decision invokes section 161 of the Constitution while justifying the pardon for Pacheco. The section grants a governor, the power to pardon suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
Pacheco, a former archives and archaeology minister, whose party is part of the ruling BJP-led coalition in Goa, was jailed on June 1 after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction in a 2006 case, in which Pacheco was accused of assaulting a government employee.
Pacheco is also being tried for a wide range of criminal cases which include culpable homicide, bigamy, assault and extortion. He is also being probed for illegal trafficking and money laundering by the US government’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and was questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation in this regard in 2010.
Environment and Forests Minister Alina Saldanha also said the decision was unanimously taken by the cabinet and that the ball was now in the governor’s court.
“Yes, I have signed. Everybody has signed it. It is now up to the governor to decide,” she said.
Asked if she agreed with the principle of pardoning a convict, she said: “In principle, I think the law has to be upheld and when you violate the law, the consequence has to be faced. But given the fact that he still continues to be the representative of the people of this constituency, he has certain responsibilities.”
Activist Aires Rodrigues, who has already petitioned Governor Sinha against granting pardon to Pacheco, said the act of the cabinet amounted to “clear abuse of power”.
“Pacheco being a political heavyweight, the Goa government was clearly conniving and colluding with him to derail the due process of law and making a mockery of the judicial system by now trying to give Pacheco the benefit of pardon under article 161 of the Constitution,” Rodrigues said.
A Catholic, Pacheco and his Goa Vikas Party are of strategic importance to the BJP, in order to attract the minority vote, especially in the Catholic-dominated constituencies of South Goa.