The authorities of the Central Prison, Vellore, have fixed September 9 as the date of execution of the three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case — Santhan, Murugan and G. Perarivalan alias Arivu.

On Friday, the prison authorities received the official communication from the Government of India that the President had rejected their mercy petitions.

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated while proceeding to an election meeting in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991.

The three convicts, along with 23 others, who stood trial in the case, were sentenced to death by the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act Court-1, Poonamallee on January 28, 1998.

The Supreme Court, which heard appeals by the convicts, confirmed the death sentence on four of the accused — Nalini (wife of Murugan), Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, reduced the sentence of three others – Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran – to life imprisonment, and acquitted the remaining 19 accused, in its judgement on May 11, 1999.

The review petitions filed by the four death convicts were dismissed by the apex court on October 8, 1999.

The four convicts sent clemency petitions to the then Governor of Tamil Nadu Fathima Beevi. Disposing of their petitions on April 25, 2000, the Governor, acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers of the State government, commuted the death sentence on Nalini to life, but rejected the petitions of the remaining three convicts.

Following this, they sent mercy petitions to the President on April 26, 2000.

These petitions were rejected by the President in the first week of this month, 11 years after the submission of the petitions and 20 years after the assassination.

Arivudainambi, Superintendent of the Central Prison, Vellore, told The Hindu that immediately on receipt of the communication from the Government of India on Friday afternoon, he conveyed the information to the convicts. He fixed the date of execution as September 9, and this was also conveyed to them.

Vaiko meets convicts

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko who met the convicts in prison this afternoon, told newspersons that they would send a written appeal to the Chief Minister appealing to her to take appropriate steps to stay the execution and annul the death sentence. He said the three were not dejected but were confident that they would be saved in the wake of fervent appeals made by human rights activists and the feelings expressed by the people of Tamil Nadu.

He said the Central government had commuted the death sentence on C.A. Balan to life, following a warning by then Chief Minister E.M.S. Namboodiripad and Law Minister Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer that the Kerala government would annul the death sentence if the Centre did not come forward to do it.