SC to resume hearing Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts’ plea

12:05 PM, Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Rajiv-GandhiNew Delhi:  The Supreme Court will on Tuesday resume hearing the plea of convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case seeking to commute the death penalty to life sentence due to delay in deciding their mercy plea.

The SC will today hear the Centre’s arguments on the matter. The Centre is opposing the plea of the prisoners.

Last week, the apex court had said that prisoners convicted in the case deserve the death sentence while refusing to go into the merits of their conviction.

“They deserve death sentence, but the question is how long can they be kept in solitary confinement,” a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said, while restraining the counsel appearing for the death row convicts to argue on the merit of the conviction.

The Supreme Court had on January 21 commuted sentences of 15 death row convicts, ruling that “inordinate and inexplicable” delays in their execution were grounds to change their sentences to life imprisonment. “Unexplained delay is a ground for commuting the death penalty to life sentence,” read a ruling from a three-judge panel headed by the Chief Justice.

At the last hearing, the counsel appearing for the convicts submitted that there had been an unreasonable delay in deciding the mercy plea of convicts Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan. The counsel argued that while the mercy plea of several other prisoners had been decided, the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination had to wait because of the government.

The apex court had in May, 2012, decided to adjudicate itself the pleas of Rajiv Gandhi killers against their death penalty and had directed that their petitions, pending with the Madras High Court, be sent to it.

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