The Supreme Court has stayed the execution, on the eve of hanging, of Sundar alias Sundararajan, who was sentenced to death for kidnapping and murdering a seven-year-old in Tamil Nadu after the boy’s parents failed to pay him a ransom of Rs.5 lakh.

It was the same Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and J.S. Khehar which on February 5 had upheld the death sentence on him, holding that no leniency should be shown in cases of “kidnap, demand for ransom and murder”, that now acted on the writ petition of Sundar of Karkudal village in Vriddhachalam taluk,

Earlier, senior counsel V. Giri said the Court had failed to note that Sundar was the only son and earning member in his family. His father died of a heart attack after the Madras High Court confirmed the trial court judgment of death sentence. Now aged only 23 (he was aged 19 on the date of crime), Kumar could be reformed and his continued existence would not be a menace to society.

Counsel said that as per the Law Commission’s recommendation all death penalty matters before the Supreme Court must be heard by a Bench of five judges, and this must be implemented by amending the Supreme Court Rules, 1966. In the alternative, at least three judges ought to hear criminal appeals.

“The convict must be left with no doubt in his mind that every possible opportunity was given to him under the Constitution before his life was taken away following due process of law.”

Pointing out that in the Dharmapuri bus burning case, the Supreme Court had stayed the execution of three convicts and that the matter was still pending, Sundar pleaded for a similar stay until his review petition was decided by a larger Bench.