The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea made by the Centre to reconsider its verdict commuting the death penalty of three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case to life terms after an over 11-year delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions.
A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice P Sathasivam did not find any substance in the Union government’s request to relook the February 18 judgment and dismissed the review petition. “We have carefully gone through the review petition and the connected papers. We find no merit in the review petition and the same is accordingly dismissed,” said the bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh.
The review petition was taken in chambers by the judges in the absence of parties.
The government urged the court to have a second look at its conclusion contending that it had traversed into the jurisdiction of the executive. It claimed that the verdict suffered from serious illegality. The Centre also contended that the matter involved the substantial question of law and should have been referred to the five-judge bench instead of being handled by the three-judge bench.
The three convicts—V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A G Perarivalan alias Arivu—are currently lodged in Vellore jail. They were awarded death penalty by a Tada court in 1998 for former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination on May 21, 1991. The apex court upheld their sentences in 1999.
Granting them relief, the court said their sentence became “inexecutable” after an inordinate delay in disposal of their mercy petitions. Soon after the verdict, the Tamil Nadu government decided to release seven convicts, including the three prime ones, which was challenged by the Union government and is still under adjudiciation in the apex court.