Supreme Court commutes death sentence of Rajiv Gandhi assassins to life

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 18, 2014 10:18 hrs

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of three assassins of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on grounds of inordinate delay in deciding their mercy petitions.

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh pronounced the verdict.

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The Tamil Nadu government can now release the three assassins by granting remission as per law.

The three assassins - V. Sriharan alias Murugan, A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu and T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan have sought the commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment on account of the inordinate delay of nearly 11 years in deciding their mercy petitions.

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The central government had opposed the plea saying that apex court's January 21 verdict, holding inordinate, unreasonable and unexplained delay in deciding the mercy petitions by president was a ground for seeking commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment was not applicable in their case.

Attorney General G.E.Vahanvati had told the court that all through these 11 years, the three assassins were living a full life by holding music shows, art exhibitions and other recreational activities in the jail.

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The government had said that during 11 years of their incarceration when their mercy petition was pending with the president, the three assassins suffered no agony, torture or dehumanizing situation.

Senior counsel Yug Chaudhary who had appeared for the three assassins had argued that delay, per se, was torture.

Gandhi was killed in 1991. His assassins were convicted by a TADA court in January 1998 and were awarded death sentence, which was confirmed by the apex court May 11, 1999.

In August 2012, their mercy petitions were rejected but as the date of their execution was fixed, the Madras High Court intervened and the execution of the death sentenced was stayed.

Subsequently on a plea by MDMK leader Vaiko, the matter before the Madras High Court was transferred to the Supreme Court.

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