Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, the three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, will not be hanged, said an SC verdict on a mercy petition. The death sentence has been commutted to life imprisonment.
The judgment was delivered by a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, which had reserved its verdict on the plea of three convicts - Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan - on February 4. Their mercy plea was strongly opposed by the Centre which had said that it was not a fit case for the apex court to commute death sentence on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea.
The death sentence has been commutted to life imprisonment
Admitting that there has been delay in deciding the mercy petitions, the government, however, had contended that the delay was not unreasonable, unexplainable and unconscionable to commute death penalty.
"We implore govt to render advice in reasonable time to the President for taking a decision on mercy pleas. We are confident that the mercy plea can be decided much faster than what is being done now", said the SC bench.
The counsel, appearing for the convicts, had contested the Centre's arguments, saying that they have suffered due to the delay by the government in deciding the mercy petitions and the apex court should intervene and commute their death sentence to life term.
The convicts had submitted that mercy plea of other condemned prisoners, which were filed after them, were decided but their petitions were kept pending by the government.
The apex court had, in May 2012, decided to adjudicate the petitions of Rajiv Gandhi killers against their death penalty and had directed that their plea, pending with the Madras high court, be sent to it.
The three men were convicted in 1998 for Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991. Murugan's wife Nalini was also sentenced to death but it was commuted to life after the intervention of Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi's widow.