Parties barring the Congress on Tuesday backed the Assembly resolution appealing to the President to reconsider the mercy petitions of the three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and commute their death sentence to life.

After the resolution moved by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was adopted, CPI(M) floor leader A. Soundararajan, who had spent around a fortnight with these three persons in Vellore jail after he was arrested by the former DMK government, said they had already spent 20 years in jail and the resolution of the Assembly "expressed our compassion towards them.

Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam deputy leader Panruti S. Ramachandran wondered why Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who is now speaking out against capital punishment, had failed to think about it in 2000, when his Cabinet passed a resolution only for commuting the sentence of Nalini, one of the convicts, in the case, but had recommended rejection of the mercy pleas of the three others.

When Mr. Ramachandran said the Chief Minister did not have the powers to commute the sentence on her own, Ms. Jayalalithaa clarified that neither the Chief Minister of a State nor the State Governor had the power to commute a death sentence after the mercy petition of a condemned person was rejected by the President of the country.

Later, talking to reporters, Congress member S. Vijayadharani accused the government of being inconsistent on the issue, saying the Chief Minister had done a somersault after asserting in the Assembly on Monday that the State government had no powers to commute the death sentence.

She complained that she was not permitted to speak in the House opposing the resolution.