Centre against commuting sentence of Rajiv killers

Centre on Friday said the delay in the disposal of the clemency pleas was not a valid ground for commutation of capital punishment.

Chennai: Strongly opposing the petitions by
three Rajiv Gandhi assassins challenging their death
sentences, the Centre on Friday said the delay in the disposal of
the clemency pleas was not a valid ground for commutation of
capital punishment.

"However long it may be, is not a mitigating circumstance
or can be construed as a valid ground for commutation of death
sentence and in any event does not reduce the gravity of the
crime," the Centre said in its counter affidavit in response
to the petitions filed by Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.
On August 30, a division bench comprising justices C
Nagappan and M Satyanaryanan, had stayed for eight weeks the
execution of the trio.

When the petitions came up today, the judges adjourned the
hearing on the petitions to November 29 as the Supreme Court
was hearing a petition for transferring the petitions to
another high court.

In the affidavit on behalf of the Centre, Joint Secretary
(Judicial) in the Union Home Ministry, J L Chugh, pointed out
that the power of the President under Article 72 of the
Constitution "is a discretionary power which cannot be taken
away by any statutory provision".

The power cannot be altered, modified or interfered with
in any manner whatsoever by any statutory provision or
authority, the affidavit said, adding that "exercise of power
under Article 71 of the Constitution is not curtailed by any
limitation as to the time frame within which such power
conferred might be exercised".

Asserting that deterrent punishment alone could prevent
other potential offenders from committing such crimes, the
counter said it was also likely to dissuade people from
associating in future with any terrorist organisation in
committing such diabolical and heinous crimes.

Besides, the death sentence awarded by the trial court had
been confirmed by the Supreme Court, which had also dismissed
review petitions filed by them, the Centre said.
The secretary said that since the petitioners had not
challenged rejection of their mercy petitions but only the
delay in rejecting them, they were liable to be dismissed on
that ground alone.

Rejecting the allegation of "discrimination" in the
rejection of the mercy petitions, the affidavit said that the
President after due consideration had rejected all the three

The Centre said that "just because some eminent
personalities, social organisations, political parties, MPs,
MLAs, former judges and jurists have written to the government
of Tamil Nadu or to the President of India it cannot be
considered to be a valid ground to commute the death sentence
awarded to the petitioners into life imprisonment".

If such views were to be considered as legally valid and
sufficient to commute the death sentence awarded to the
petitioners into life imprisonment, "that will constitute a
bad precedent and in future is likely to create and be a cause
for communal and religious protests and unrest".

It was pertinent to mention here that some leaders of
political parties/social organisations "continue to support
LTTE for their own vested interests," the Centre said.

"They are now supporting the commutation of the
petitioners` death sentence into life imprisonment in order to
seek political advantage from the issue. Some of these
political parties while ruling the State or while being part
of the government of India had recommended a ban on the LTTE
and also recommended the rejection of the mercy petitions,"
the affidavit said.

Pointing out that the main ground of challenge was "delay
in considering and disposing of their mercy petitions and it
had caused mental agony and hardship to them," the affidavit
quoted the petitioners as saying "the delay in disposal of our
mercy petitions also gave the three of us a hope that we may
be given an opportunity to live. We have, therefore, putting
aside out agony and shadow of death, equipped ourselves

Admitting that the petitioners were lodged in jail for the
past several years, the affidavit said they lived normal lives
in prison like other prisoners and given opportunities to
pursue education of their choice.
The Centre said the allegation of violation of
fundamental rights was "an afterthought" after rejection of
their mercy petitions.

The Centre said Murugan and Santhan were Sri Lankan
citizens and hardcore militants of LTTE, who infiltrated into
India clandestinely with the sole intention of assassinating
Rajiv Gandhi.

In a separate affidavit, the Tamil Nadu government said the
State governor had rejected the mercy petitions "as there are
no extenuating circumstances warranting mercy".

The Principal Secretary to the State Home Department,
Rameshram Mishra in the affidavit on behalf of the government
declined to remark on the claim about public support for
commuting the death sentence and called for dismissal of the
mercy pleas.


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