Centre opposes clemency to Rajiv Gandhi's killers

Convicts had not uttered a word of remorse, says Attorney General

Centre opposes clemency to Rajiv Gandhi's killers

The Centre on Tuesday strongly opposed before the Supreme Court any clemency to three convicts on death row for Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.

 The apex court reserved its order on their plea seeking commutation of their sentence to life term due to inordinate delay in deciding on their mercy petitions by the President.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati, appearing for the Union government, urged a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, to dismiss the petitions relating to convicts V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A G Perarivalan alias Arivu.

Vahanvati submitted that the three convicts should not be extended the benefit of the January 21 verdict, in which the apex court had held inordinate delay in deciding mercy petition by governors or President as a ground for commutation of capital punishment to life term.

“I frankly admit delay in deciding the mercy plea, but the delay has not resulted in the convicts going through an agonising experience,” he said, referring to their own petitions in which the condemned prisoners stated that they indulged in creative activities inside jail and had a good time.

To this, the bench observed that this can be taken in other ways too — that they are not hardcore criminals — and it cannot be presumed that they are happy in jail.

However, Vahanvati insisted, “This is not the case in which the convict had to undergo a dehumanising and agonising experience due to delay in mercy petition.”

The convicts had not expressed even a word of remorse in their mercy plea, he pointed out.

The convicts, on their part, contended that they had suffered due to the 11-year delay by the government in deciding their mercy petitions, and that the apex court should intervene and commute their death sentence to life term.

Mercy pleas by other convicts was decided earlier than their petition, they claimed.

The apex court bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh, which had in May 2012 decided to admit the plea against their death penalty, reserved its judgment.

The court had earlier directed for transfer of the case from the Madras High Court on a plea made by one L K Venkat in view of the charged atmosphere in favour of the convicts.

The Madras High Court had earlier stayed their hanging, slated for September 9, 2011, and issued notice to the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government.

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