Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa told the Legislative Assembly on Monday that she did not have the power to annul the death sentence awarded to Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, or put their execution on hold, after the rejection of their mercy petitions by the President.
“As Chief Minister I don't have the powers to change the ruling after the President of India has rejected their mercy petitions. Through the House, I request leaders of political parties and others not to carry on the propaganda that I have the powers to change the decision,” she said in a suo motu statement.
At the same time, she said, a fresh application seeking reconsideration of the earlier decision could be filed before the President by the condemned person or anyone on his behalf “if there is a change of circumstance or if any new material is available.”
“Once the President has rejected a mercy petition, all future applications in this behalf should be addressed to and would be dealt with by the President of India,” she said, quoting a March 5, 1991 directive from the Union Home Ministry.
“The Government of India, on an examination of the matter and after taking all relevant constitutional aspects into view, direct in terms of Article 257(1) of the Constitution that in cases of death sentences, where a petition for grant of pardon etc. has earlier been rejected by the President in exercise of his powers under Article 72 of the Constitution, it would not be open to a State government to seek to exercise similar powers under Article 161 in respect of the same case,” she quoted the Union government's letter as saying.
Reacting to DMK president M. Karunanidhi's request for her intervention, Ms. Jayalalithaa accused the former Chief Minister of playing a dual role as it was the DMK government that had adopted a Cabinet resolution on April 19, 2000, recommending commutation of the death sentence of Nalini on the ground that executing her would render her daughter an orphan. However, it advised rejection of the mercy petitions of the other three. The Governor commuted Nalini's death sentence to one of life the next day.
Pointing out that as per the Constitution, the President or the Governor alone could commute the death sentence awarded by the Supreme Court, she said the Cabinet meeting chaired by Mr. Karunanidhi could have taken a decision if it was of the view that these persons deserved to be pardoned.
“After adopting a resolution in the Cabinet that the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan could be carried out, Mr. Karunanidhi is now feigning innocence and issuing a statement for saving their lives,” she alleged.
Ms. Jayalalithaa said she was pained to learn the death of Senkodi, belonging to Makkal Mandram, who committed self-immolation to express solidarity with the campaign to save the lives of the three persons. “Please don't act on impulse,” she appealed to the people.
Convicts move High Court
The three convicts moved the Madras High Court on Monday against the rejection of their mercy petitions by the President. The petitions, which will be taken up for hearing on Tuesday, also sought interim orders staying the executions fixed for September 9 at the Vellore prison.
Mr. Karunanidhi appealed to the Central and State governments to save the lives of the three by annulling their death sentences. In a statement, he said, his appeal should be treated as a “mercy petition.”