In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court on Tuesday granted relief to the three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case — Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan — by commuting their death sentence into life term on the grounds of inordinate delay in disposal of their mercy petitions by the President.
While commuting the death sentence of three convicts — Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan — in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case into life citing inordinate delay in disposal of their mercy petitions by the President, the Supreme Court rejected the contention of the Centre that the trio did not deserve any mercy as they never showed remorse for killing the former Prime Minister.
The three-judge Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh also gave a ray of hope for their release, saying that the Tamil Nadu government could exercise its remission powers under Section 432 and 433 Cr.P.C. and following the due procedure in law.
Centre’s stand rejected
The Bench rejected the Centre’s stand that the delay caused was not at the instance of the head of the executive and was not unreasonable.
It said: “Following the rejection of [their] mercy petitions by the Tamil Nadu Governor on April 25, 2000, these petitions were forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs on May 04, 2000. After an unreasonable delay of five years and 1 month, on July 21, 2005, the Ministry of Home Affairs submitted the petitioners’ mercy petitions to the President for consideration.”
The court said there was delay even thereafter. In February 2011, the MHA recalled the mercy petitions from the President. “Here also there was a delay of five years and eight months. Ultimately, the President, on September 12, 2011, rejected these mercy petitions after a delay of more than 11 years,” the Bench said.
It said it was indisputable that the delay was “inordinate and unreasonable and not caused at the instance of the petitioners,” warranting commutation of their death sentence life imprisonment.