Court refers to convicts' letters to highlight sufferings

The Supreme Court, which on Tuesday commuted the death penalty of three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, relied upon the repeated reminders sent to the President to highlight pathetic position, torture and sufferings undergone by them and members of their family in the wait of over 11 years for a decision on their mercy petitions. 

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam trashed Attorney General G E Vahanvati’s contention that the three convicts—V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A G Perarivalan alias Arivu—had a good time in prison during their incarceration since 1991.

“The petitioners have extensively pleaded the nature of their sufferings both in the petitions as well as in the reminder letters each of them repeatedly sent to the President, which remained unheeded,” said the court.

“Their writ petitions filed before the high court show a different picture. All the petitioners highlighted that the delay caused unendurable torture to them and they repeatedly requested the authorities to forthwith decide their mercy petitions,” added the bench.

The court referred to Murugan’s petition in which he said, “My family and I have undergone living hell not knowing whether I would live or die, and whether I would live to see another day or draw another breath, or whether that day and that breath would be my last. I state that I have been swinging between life and death for these past years confined in a single cell.”

For a period of about 11 years and 10 months, Murugan wrote, “I have lived under the shadow of the hangman’s noose. During this period, I have been kept in a single cell, with the threat of imminent death hanging over my head.”

Two other convicts also expressed their grievance in similar terms, the court noted.

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