New Delhi: The Supreme Court today stayed the execution of four aides of Sandalwood bandit Veerappan till Wednesday. President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected their mercy petitions last week.
The four - Gnana Prakasam, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran - have been on death row for nine years and have requested the Supreme Court to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment since there has been an inordinate delay in deciding on their mercy petition.
Earlier the court had refused to hear on priority the clemency petitions of the four who then moved the apex court for a stay through a human rights lawyer. The apex court has stayed the execution till Feb 20 but said that such application should be filed by the convicts themselves.
They are accused of killing 22 policemen and forest officials in a landmine blast in Palar, Karnataka in 1993. A Mysore court had in 2001 sentenced the men to life imprisonment, but the Supreme Court enhanced that to the death sentence in 2004. The mercy petition was moved the same year.
They are currently lodged in a jail in Belgaum, Karnataka.
Veerappan's wife asks govt to stop execution
Meanwhile, V Muthulakshmi, Veerappan's wife, will hold a protest to seek Tamil Nadu government's intervention to commute the death sentence of his aides to a life sentence. As part of the protest, she plans to block a road at the Thalavadi checkpost in Erode district.
"Jayalalithaa had passed a resolution in the Tamil Nadu Assembly for those death convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. These four people too are Tamils. They are not terrorists but innocent people wrongfully arrested. More than hundred people were acquitted in the case. So a resolution has to be passed for these people as well," she was reported as saying.
Pro-Tamil groups in the state too have asked the government to pass a resolution to stay the hanging of the four men.
Not long ago, the Tamil Nadu Assembly had passed a resolution seeking commutation of the death sentence on three people in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, following widespread demand from all political parties in the state barring the Congress.
The lawyer of the four aides had on Saturday sought an urgent hearing at the Chief Justice's residence as the top court was closed that day, pleading there were reports that the four men would be hanged at the Belgaum, Karnataka jail where they are lodged, on Sunday. But the court rejected that appeal saying there was nothing to suggest that an execution had been slotted.