Amid a raging debate on the issue of clemency for killers of Rajiv Gandhi, the main investigator in the 20-year-old case D. R. Karthikeyan says that he will be happy if the death penalty of the three accused is commuted to life sentence.

With the demand for commuting their death sentence becoming an emotive issue in Tamil Nadu, he suggested that Parliament should convene a special session to discuss the policy with regard to capital punishment as decisions taken on regional basis would set a dangerous precedent.

“I have nothing personal against them. I did my duty, let the government do their duty now. I will be happy if their death sentence is reduced to life imprisonment,” Mr. Karthikeyan told PTI.

Mr. Karthikeyan was asked to take charge of the Special Investigation Team, a day after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination on May 21, 1991. Within a year on May 20, 1992, a day before the first anniversary of the assassination, his team filed the chargesheet naming 41 people as accused.

The former IPS officer said the commutation of Nalini Sreeharan’s death sentence may help the other three accused, whose mercy petition has been rejected by President Pratibha Patil. The Supreme Court had sentenced Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini to death in 1999.

The Madras High Court had recently granted an eight-week interim stay on the execution of the convicts which was scheduled for September 9.

“They have got a case, as one of the condemned prisoners’ death sentence has been commuted to life. Moreover, they have been in jail for 20 years, and their mercy petitions have taken 11 years, which was a long period of uncertainty,” he said.

Mr. Karthikeyan, a Padma Shri awardee, professed the need to formulate a uniform policy on capital punishment while cautioning against any selective treatment.

“A special session of Parliament should be called to discuss the policy on death penalty. It should not be decided on the basis of region. That will be a dangerous precedent and can divide the country,” he said.

Expressing disappointment over the delay in deciding clemency applications, he blamed the government for not taking decisions in reasonable time.

“The delay by the government makes the whole effort of the investigators look meaningless. It certainly demoralises the investigators. Because of delay in taking decisions it has resulted in confusion,” he said.

The Supreme Court, in its judgement, had appreciated the “meticulous investigation” and “assiduous work” of the SIT team headed by Mr. Karthikeyan.

He maintained that despite being advised by several officials to recuse from the case after LTTE’s involvement was found, he continued the probe.

“I had more problems with certain high-profile politicians than the LTTE. They were trying to distort, derail the investigation so that their political objectives were achieved. It was mental agony for me,” he said.

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