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Centre opposes Rajiv Gandhi killers` plea to commute death sentence

By Deepak Nagpal | Last Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 - 13:45

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: The Central government on Tuesday opposed in the Supreme Court a plea by the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case seeking to commute the death penalty to life sentence due to delay in deciding their mercy plea.

Opposing the plea, the Centre submitted in the SC that the death convicts did not go through torture, agony and dehumanising experience during pendency of their mercy pleas.

“There has been delay in deciding the mercy plea but the delay is not unreasonable, unexplainable and unconscionable to commute death sentence,” the Centre`s counsel said.
“It is not a fit case for commuting death sentence,” the counsel added.

Meanwhile, arguments have completed with the SC reserving its verdict in the case.

Last week, the apex court had said that prisoners convicted in the case deserve 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.

First Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 - 11:17

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