Senior advocates representing the three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case assailed the undue delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions and contended that this rendered the death penalty imposed on them illegal and unconstitutional.
Ram Jethmalani, senior counsel, arguing for Murugan, submitted that every country in Europe was free from death penalty. However, India had not abolished capital punishment. He traced the facts starting from the assassination of the former Prime Minister on May 21, 1991 till the completion of the judicial process on May 11, 1999 (the day on which the Supreme Court delivered its verdict).
The first clemency petition was dismissed by the Governor in 10 days. His second petition was also rejected. Later, a mercy plea was sent to the President in 2000. This was followed by reminders. After 11 years and four months, the petition was rejected.
Citing various judgments, he said the delay in disposing of mercy petitions was a ground for commutation of sentence. Unless the delay was properly explained and justified, it rendered the death penalty illegal and unconstitutional. R. Vaigai, senior counsel, appearing for Santhan, submitted that delay in disposal of the mercy petition by 11 years made the execution of death sentence unconstitutional.
Colin Gonsalves, counsel for Perarivalan, said as per Article 21, no person should be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Taking 11 years for disposing of the mercy petition was not a procedure established by law.
Anbumani, sister of Perarivalan, said she had faith in the judiciary. She was hopeful that her brother would ultimately be released from prison. The prisoner's father, Kuyilthasan, said various parties and people of different strata of society had come together for saving the three lives.
Film director Manivannan was among those present in the court complex.