Hanging of Rajiv killers stayed, Tamil Nadu assembly backs them

August 30th, 2011 - 11:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil Chennai, Aug 30 (IANS) The Sep 9 hanging of the three men sentenced to death for conspiring to assassinate former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was stayed for eight weeks by the Madras High Court Tuesday, coinciding with the Tamil Nadu assembly passing a resolution asking President Pratibha Patil to review their mercy petitions.

Hearing the petitions filed by Murugan alias Sriharan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu that their death sentence be commuted, Justices C. Nagappan and M. Satyanarayanan ordered an interim stay on the hanging pending disposal of the case.

The court has ordered notice to the state and the central governments returnable in eight weeks.

On Aug 11, President Pratibha Patil rejected the mercy petitions of the three, all of whom are linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and sentenced to death for their involvement in Gandhi’s May 1991 assassination.

Rajiv Gandhi, who was the prime minister 1984-89, was killed by suicide bomber Dhanu at an election rally in Sriperumbudur near Chennai May 21. Fourteen other people also lost their lives in the blast.

The Tamil Nadu assembly also Tuesday moved a resolution asking the president to review her decision rejecting their three condemned men’s mercy plea and commute the death sentence to life imprisonment.

Citing the concern of the people of Tamil Nadu and the appeals by various political parties, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said the resolution was moved on behalf of the state government.

The clemency petition was rejected by the Indian president after 11 years and the delay is prima facie wrong, senior counsel Ram Jethmalani said while arguing for Perarivalan at the Madras High Court.

He said a notice seeking explanation for the delay should be sent.

Urging speedy disposal of mercy petitions, Jethmalani had said earlier that if there was a delay of two years, then the death sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment.

“Perhaps the delay in deciding on the mercy petition made the high court grant the stay. The Rajiv Gandhi assassination case is one of the rarest of rare cases where death sentence is warranted,” political commentator Cho Ramaswamy told IANS.

“Apart from Rajiv Gandhi, several others got killed in the blast,” he added.

According to him, the “save the three” chorus sung by almost all parties was politically motivated.

Added Gnani, another political analyst: “The assembly could have passed a resolution against death penalty in general and not specifying the three alone. That would have been a shrewd move on the part of Jayalalithaa.”

Vaiko, MDMK general secretary and counsel on record for Perarivalan, also thanked Jayalalithaa for passing the resolution in the assembly.

“No other state assembly has passed such a resolution. The resolution is like a beacon light for other state governments and the central government,” he said in a statement.

According to Vaiko, the judges agreed to his plea that the three convicts now in isolated cells should be allowed to move around freely inside the prison.

DMK chief and former chief minister M. Karunanidhi said the centre should free the convicts as they have spent over 20 years in jail and their period of imprisonment should be considered as full punishment.

PMK founder S. Ramadoss also thanked Jayalalithaa for passing the resolution and urged her to exert pressure on the president to agree to the commutation of their death terms.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) welcomed the high court’s interim stay and the assembly resolution and cancelled the statewide fasting protest from Sep 3.

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