Govt to challenge SC verdict commuting death penalty

The Centre is likely to move the Supreme Court seeking a review of the recent verdict commuting death penalty of 15 convicts to life term on the grounds of unreasonable delay in disposing of their mercy plea by the President or Governor.

“The government is considering filing review petition… and it is likely to be done within weeks,” Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra told a bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam.

Luthra’s disclosure came while seeking adjournment in the hearing on the petitions filed by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s killers against their execution on the grounds that the President had inordinately delayed in deciding on their mercy petitions.

Luthra, appearing for the Centre, sought adjournment in petition filed by V Sriharan alias Murugan and, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan and AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, (three convicts) since the Attorney General was not available.

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, representing the convicts, opposed his plea, saying that he had a suspicion that the government wanted time till it filed review petition against the January 21 verdict.

Responding to Jethmalani, the law officer said the government would file the review petition and that was not the consideration for seeking adjournment.

The bench, however, brushing aside the law officer’s plea, allowed Jethmalani to advance his argument in the matter from Thursday. The President had rejected the mercy plea of three convicts in the 1991 assassination case of former prime minister on August 11, 2011.

In a landmark verdict, the apex court had on January 21 held that “undue, inordinate and unreasonable delay” in execution of death sentence did certainly attributed to torture which was in violation of Article 21 (Right to life and liberty) and thereby entailed as the ground for commutation of sentence. The court was then dealing with 13 separate petitions relating to the condemned prisoners.

The apex court had also decided to hear curative petition concerning Khalistan supporter and terror convict D P S Bhullar from January 31.

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