New Delhi, May 30: President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday rejected mercy plea of a murder accused Jagat Rai upholding his death sentence awarded to him by the Supreme Court five years ago. This was the first mercy petition which President Kovind decided on. Notably, the case happened in Bihar at a time when Kovind served a the Governor of the state before taking over as the President.

Jagat Rai is convicted of killing at least six members of a family when they were sound asleep at their home. Rai killed one Vijendra Mahato’s wife and five children — Suraj, Anil and Rajesh and daughters Poonam and Neelam — when they were asleep by setting their house on fire on the night of January 1, 2006, at Rampur Shyamchand village in Bihar’s Vaishali district.

Mahato had registered a case against Jagat Rai, Wazir Rai and Ajay Rai accusing them of stealing his buffalo. After he refused to withdraw the case, Rai torched his house. Even though Mahato escaped, he later died of serious injuries.

“Rai and his associate caught hold of Mahato and pushed him to the ground where after 3-4 unknown persons gagged him… Rai instructed his associated to… sprinkle kerosene… while the other accused persons locked the door of the room where Mahato’s wife was sleeping along with the children and set the house on fire. They later sprinkled kerosene over Mahato… and held him to the ground… set his mouth on fire by lighting a matchstick,” police and the prosecution had said, Indian Express reported.

Rai was awarded death sentence for his crime. In the year 2013, the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence saying that the case fell in the category of “rarest of rare” cases. Rai’s mercy petition was sent last year to the then President Pranab Mukherjee. However, since the process to elect the new President had already begun, Mukherjee could not take a decision.

The officials said that Ram Nath Kovind studied Rai’s petition and rejected it after taking legal opinion.