Veerappan's sidekicks on death row

R Keerthana
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What’s happening?

It is the third death penalty case that’s making news in less than four months. After the hanging of Ajmal Kasab in November and Afzal Guru in February, President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected the mercy petition of four aides of slain sandalwood smuggler Veerappan on February 13. Acting hurriedly, the convicts appealed to the apex court for a review of the rejection and commutation of their sentence. The court, on Wednesday, extended the stay on their execution and adjourned the case for 6 weeks.

What is the case all about?

Veerappan’s elder brother Gnanaprakash and his aides Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran were awarded death sentence in 2004 in connection with a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993 in which 22 police personnel were killed. They have been lodged in a jail in Belgaum in Karnataka since then.

Who is Veerappan?

Koose Muniswamy Veerappan was a brigand for years in a forest land. He long defied three state governments – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. He had his own army of men and was wanted in the killing of as many as 184 people, mostly policemen and forest officials. He was also wanted for poaching about 200 elephants andsmuggling ivory and sandalwood of about 10,000 tonnes. He evaded arrest for 20 years until he was killed by Tamil Nadu police in an encounter in 2004.

Why are the four Veerappan aides seeking commutation?

As we already discussed in this column last week (On Afzal Guru’s hanging) death row convicts have the right to appeal for commutation to life imprisonment when the execution is delayed. In this case, convicts, who are now in their 60s, have cited that they have spent nine years already, awaiting clemency and that they have suffered enough mental and physical agony during their term in prison.

When is a death penalty given?

Crimes that are punishable by death sentence are murder, gang robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the nation, abetting mutiny by a member of armed forces, second offence of large scale narcotics trafficking, terrorist activities, committing of honour killing, police brutality in the form of encounter killing. In 2013, an ordinance was passed to apply death penalty in cases of rape that leads to death or leaves the victim in a persistent vegetative state.

How many death sentences have so far been executed and how many executions are pending?

Since 1995 it has been used four times, on Auto Shankar in 1995, Dhananjoy Chatterjee in 2004, Ajmal Kasab in 2012 and Afzal Guru in 2013.

As of February 2013, there are 476 convicts on death row in India and 26 mercy petitions are pending. Ex-president Pratibha Patil near the end of her term commuted the death sentence of as many as 35 convicts to life.



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