Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi has defended his plea for saving the lives of three convicts sentenced to death in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

He asserted that the very ground for his appeal was that they had spent 20 years in jail, “which is equivalent to death sentence”. Hence, they should be freed.

He was responding to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's the allegation in the Assembly that he had failed to demand commutation for the trio when his Cabinet took a decision to seek commutation of the death sentence of Nalini, one of the convicted persons in the case, on the ground that her child would be orphaned.

On the allegation of Ms. Jayalalithaa that the Cabinet had then raised no objection to carrying out the death sentence of the three persons (Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan) and advised rejection of their mercy petitions, Mr. Karunanidhi said that this decision was taken in 2000 and at that time these three had spent only a few years in jail.

He pointed out that even the commutation of nalini's sentence was opposed by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the Assembly in April 2000. Besides, Ms. Jayalalithaa issued a statement on October 23, 2008, criticising the delay in execution of the death sentence of the three and commutation of the sentence of Nalini.

The DMK leader alleged that she was not prepared to pass a resolution in the Assembly seeking commutation of the sentence for these three even on Monday (August 29). She chose to do so only on Tuesday because of pressure from various political parties and upsurge in the State.

Mr. Karunanidhi said his plea was based only on the duration of their stay behind the bars. “What is wrong in seeking reconsideration of the death sentence?”