The Supreme Court Tuesday transferred to itself petitions seeking commutation of the death sentence of the three assassins of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, on the ground of inordinate delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the president.
A bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya transferred to itself the petitions of the three convicts condemned to death from the Madras High Court on a plea by lawyer K.L. Venkat. He argued that the "surcharged atmosphere in Chennai would not allow for a fair hearing".
The three convicts on death row are V. Sriharan also known as Murugan, T. Suthendraraja also known as Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan also known as Arivu V. Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 at an election rally at Sriperumbudur, near Chennai.
The assassins were pronounced guilty and awarded the death sentence by the trial court in 1999. They had moved their mercy petitions before the president seeking commutation of their death sentences to life imprisonment in the year 2000.
Earlier, in 2011, their mercy petitions were rejected by the president.
Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Singhvi said: “We do not consider it necessary to decide whether the support extended by the political outfits and others to those who were found guilty of killing the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi may impede fair adjudication of the writ petitions filed by them warrants transfer of the three writ petitions from the Madras High Court to this court.”
Exercising its powers under Article 139A(1) of the Constitution and transferring the petitions before the high court to the apex court, the judgment noted that an identical question is pending for its consideration in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar case.
Ordering the transfer of petitions, the court directed its registry to send copies of this order to the registrar general of the Madras High Court and Superintendent, Central Jail, Vellore (Tamil Nadu) by fax.
The registrar general of the high court was directed to ensure that the records of the three writ petitions are sent to this court per messenger within two weeks of the receipt of communication from the apex court's registry.
The court further directed that the transferred cases shall be listed before the court July 10 for final disposal, and notices be issued to the writ petitioners.
The order said that one set of the notices be also sent to the Vellore jail superintendent, who shall ensure that the same are served upon the writ petitioners well before July 10.