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Condemned prisoners in Rajiv Gandhi case deserve death: SC

Published Jan 31, 2014, 4:29 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 8:32 am IST
It is yet to be seen if capital punishment can be commuted to a life term, says top court.
Rajiv Gandhi and Perarivalan - File photos
 Rajiv Gandhi and Perarivalan - File photos

New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Thursday that though the three condemned convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case deserve the death penalty, it is to be seen if capital punishment can be commuted to a life term on the ground of inordinate delay by government in deciding their mercy plea.

“They deserve a death sentence, but the question is how long can they be confined in solitary confinement,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam.


During the hearing, the three convicts, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, pleaded that their death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment as the President had taken more than 11 years to take a decision on their mercy pleas.

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, one of the lawyers appearing for them, referred to the recent judgement during his arguments on Thursday.

The bench, however, disallowed him from arguing on the merits of the case, saying it was clear that death was the right punishment for them.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati will apprise the apex court on February 4 of the Centre’s stand on the issue. The Centre has been opposing their plea seeking life imprisonment instead of the death sentence.

The mercy petitions of the three men were rejected in 2011 by the then President Pratibha Patil, and this was challenged by them. 

Although the Supreme Court confirmed their death sentences in 2000, it took the President 11 years to reject their mercy pleas.

The execution of the remaining three convicts, which was scheduled for September 9, 2011, was stayed by the Madras high court.  The case has since been with the Supreme Court.

Location: Tamil Nadu