With President Pranab Mukherjee rejecting their mercy petitions, the four associates of the slain forest brigand Veerappan could be sent to the gallows within the next fortnight, top government officials here said.

Simon, Gnanaprakash, Madaiah and Bilavandra were convicted of killing 22 persons in landmine blasts in Palar. They have been in the Hindalga Central Jail in Belgaum since 2004.

Karnataka Additional Director-General of Prisons Gagandeep told The Hindu that the department had received the information of their mercy pleas being rejected from the Union Home Ministry and the same was communicated to the four.

As per the procedure, the case would be referred to the session court, which had to fix the date of the execution, which would be usually within 14 days, he said.

While the jail authorities closed all doors of official communication to the media, reliable sources said a message about the rejection of the mercy pleas reached them around 2.35 p.m. The sources said the jail authorities were holding a meeting and they had informed the families of the four in Tamil Nadu.