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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of three killers of Rajiv Gandhi to life term.
The grounds for commuting their death sentence to life term are the 11-year delay taken by the government in deciding on their mercy petitions.
The three whose lives have been spared are Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, on May 21, 1991, while campaigning for the parliament elections. Gandhi and 25 others were killed when a woman – later identified as Thenmozhi Rajaratnam – with 700 gms of RDX explosives tied to her body, bent down to touch his feet.
A TADA court had given the death sentence to the assassins in January 1998. The Supreme Court had confirmed the sentence in May 1999.
But on Tuesday, a bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.K. Singh rejected the government’s argument that there was no unreasonable delay in deciding on their mercy petitions.
Also rejecting the government’s contention that delay on their mercy pleas did not result in any agony for the three convicts, the apex court commuted their death sentence to life term.
Asking the government to adopt a new systemic approach to avoid inordinate delay in deciding on mercy petitions, the Supreme Court said, “We implore government to render advice in reasonable time to the President for taking a decision on mercy pleas.’’
But in Chennai, DMK supremo M Karunanidhi wanted the government to release all the three convicts.
“I am filled with joy as the Supreme Court has given Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan the right to live by setting aside their death penalties,” said Karunanidhi in a statement.
“I will be happier if the Central and state governments release all the four convicts immediately by taking into consideration long years they have already spent in jail.’’
When he was the Tamil Nadu chief minister in 2000 Karunanidhi had got the death sentence of Nalini, who is the wife of convict Murugan, commuted to life term. But his government back then refused not to
The governor accepted the recommendation and passed an order as even Congress president and Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi had appealed for Nalini’s life. However, Karunanidhi’s government didn’t intervene on behalf of her husband, Santhan and Perarivalan.