The Union Home Ministry has communicated to the Tamil Nadu government the rejection of the clemency petitions of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, convicts given the death penalty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, by President Pratibha Patil, thereby paving the way for their execution, highly placed police sources said on Thursday night.

Hours after the message was received, jail authorities began preparing for the execution. Steps have been taken to deploy commandos in the Vellore Central Prison, where the three condemned prisoners are lodged.

Parrying questions on the probable date of execution, a prison official said the usual norm was to hang condemned prisoners within seven days of the notification, in this case commencing on Friday.

While Perarivalan is an Indian national, Murugan and Santhan are Sri Lankans. After the news of the President's rejection of the mercy petitions spread in the second week of August, a few political parties and organisations held demonstrations seeking remission of the punishment as the three had already spent about 20 years in prison.

The former Central Bureau of Investigation Director D.R. Kaarthikeyan, who led the Special Investigation Team that probed the May 21, 1991 assassination, told The Hindu that he had nothing personal against the three convicts. “I was persuaded to take up investigation in the case … we went from the crime to the criminal based on evidence. I had a personal regard for Rajiv Gandhi and I thought it was my duty to investigate.”

Mr. Kaarthikeyan said half of the countries in the world had abolished the death penalty. “But for incidents like the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, India would also have considered abolishing capital punishment. I hope one day the death penalty will not exist.”

PUCL plea

People's Union for Civil Liberties national secretary Suresh, who had submitted a petition to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, said his organisation wanted her to use the State government's executive power to commute the sentence.

The PUCL as a policy viewed “the death penalty and the imposition of the death penalty as arbitrary capricious, unfair and cruel.”

Mr. Suresh said, “The government should grant an executive stay of the execution pending final decision on the PUCL petition, which has raised substantive legal grounds supporting commutation.”

The campaign committee for commuting the death sentence had already given a call for a human chain protest across the State for Friday. Tamil Nationalist Movement leader P. Nedumaran, MDMK general secretary Vaiko and Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan are likely to meet here on Friday to chalk out the next course of action.

The death sentence of Nalini, wife of Murugan, was commuted to life imprisonment.