The Supreme Court Monday suspended till Wednesday the execution of death sentence of the four aides of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, whose mercy petition was rejected Feb 12.
The apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir suspended the death sentence after senior counsel Colin Gonsalves told the court this is a case that involves inordinate delay in the carrying out of the death sentence.
Gonsalves said another bench of the apex court headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi has already reserved judgment on the question of whether, in a case where there is inordinate delay in deciding a mercy petition, the convict is entitled to any relief or not.
Gonsalves told the court that the judgment was reserved eight months back and its outcome would be applicable in the case of the four Veerappan aides.
Opposing the plea, Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati said this was a serious matter as it involves the killing of 20 police personnel in a land mine blast, and came under the category of "rarest of rare" cases.
The court will hear the matter Wednesday.
The president Feb 12 rejected the mercy petitions of Gnanprakasham, Simon Antonyiappa, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran, sentenced to death for killing 22 people, including policemen, in a landmine blast near Palar bridge on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border in 1993.
The mercy petitions were filed in 2004.
The convicts contend that given the long delay of nine years in deciding their petition, they ought not be hanged.
Meanwhile, the kin of Madaiah said they were happy with the apex court's order.
Speaking to IANS over phone, M. Paramasivam, son of Madaiah, said: "This is comforting news. We hope the hanging is put off."
Paramasivam is a daily wage labourer living in a village in Salem district.
Echoing him was his mother and Madaiah's wife M. Thangamma, who told IANS: "We plan to visit him next week. The stay order gives us hope."