SC Judgment Offers a Ray of Hope for Rajiv Case Convicts
Published: 22nd January 2014 07:31 AM |
The landmark judgement delivered by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, that a delay in deciding mercy pleas was a valid supervening circumstance for commuting capital punishment to life imprisonment, could pave the way for the three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case to escape the gallows, according to experts.
Noted human rights lawyer, R Vaigai, told Express that all that is required now is the direct application of the Shatrugan Chauhan case verdict to the petition that the convicts filed against the rejection of their mercy pleas by the President, which too is currently pending before the Supreme Court.
The case was transferred to the apex court from the Madras High Court in May 2012 following a petition by members of the Moopanar Peravai attached to the Tamil Nadu Congress.
Vaigai, who was one of the lawyers who represented the convicts when the petitions challenging the President’s decision was filed in the Madras High Court in August 2011, confirmed that the main argument in the case of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan was similar to the matter on which the bench headed by Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam, adjudicated on Tuesday.
Their contention was that an inordinate delay in deciding on the mercy pleas, in their case over a decade, was enough reason to nullify the death sentence.
“We welcome the verdict wholeheartedly. The legal position on the issue of delay as a ground for commutation had been clear for long. But unfortunately, ambivalent positions were taken in later instances. It is good that the apex court has confirmed the position now,” Vaigai said.
K Radhakrishnan, noted human rights lawyer, said the apex court had taken a similar stand on the issue as early as in 1989 in the Triveniben case. The current verdict was a strong reiteration of the previous order.
In fact, in the Tuesday judgement itself, Justice Sathasivam pointed out that between 1989 and 1997, the impact of the 1989 Triveniben verdict on mercy pleas was witnessed with the disposal time coming down from four years to an average of five months.
Arputham Ammal, the mother of one of the convicts, Perarivalan, said she was elated at the verdict and the decision was a victory to all those who fought against the death penalty. “I will continue to fight for abolishing the death sentence from our country,” she said.
Meanwhile, Perarivalan’s counsel S Prabhu Ramasubramanian termed it an “excellent judgment.”
The counsel said that the verdict would be clearly applicable to Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan.
“There are similarities in the case of these 15 convicts and that of Perarivalan and the other two convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case,” said the Delhi-based advocate.
The case will come for hearing before the same Constitutional Bench comprising Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh on January 29. It took more than 11 years for the Central Government to communicate to the petitioners that their clemency pleas were rejected by the President, said the counsel.
Reacting to the SC order, Perarivalan and Santhan said that they were happy. A prison official, quoting the duo, said they expressed their happiness over the judgment. However, they were not keen on discussing the verdict elaborately with anyone, the official added.
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