New Delhi: Slain sandalwood smuggler Veerappan`s associates on Tuesday sought commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment by telling the Supreme Court that there has been an inordinate delay in deciding their mercy plea.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam was hearing arguments on 13 petitions filed by convicts whose execution was stayed by it.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Veerappan`s brother and three aides, argued even though another bench of the apex court has decided the issue that death sentence cannot be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea, the larger bench has still the power to commute the capital punishment.
Veerappan`s elder brother Gnanaprakash and his aides Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran were awarded death sentence in 2004 in connection with a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993 in which 22 police personnel were killed. Their mercy plea was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee in February this year.
On February 18, an apex court bench had in an urgent hearing stayed the execution of death sentence of the four convicts. During the arguments, the senior counsel said that in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar`s judgement, though the two-judge bench of the apex court has held that delay should not be the factor for commuting death sentence to life, the larger bench should take care of this factor.
Jethmalani, who would continue his arguments tomorrow, said there is an inordinate delay in deciding the appeals and mercy plea by the state government and the President of these four condemned prisoners and they have been suffering for long.
The bench, also comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh, had earlier asked the states to provide detailed information pertaining to the cases for which mercy pleas were filed and subsequently rejected.
It had also sought specific information on whether the decisions of rejection of the mercy pleas were communicated to the condemned prisoners and their family members or not.