The Madras high court on Tuesday [30-8-2011] granted an eight-week stay on the execution of the three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
A specially constituted bench of Justices C Nagappan and M Sathyanarayanan admitted the petitions filed by the trio, V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan and AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, asking for their sentences to be commuted. The Union ministry of home affairs and the state government, which are the main respondents, have been directed to file their replies.
The main contention of the three convicts is the prolonged delay in the disposal of their mercy pleas and the “mental trauma” they have undergone. “Since the matter involves consideration of a question of law, the writ petitions are admitted and there shall be interim injunction. Counter by eight weeks,” the order said.
Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, who represented Murugan, began making his arguments and concluded in exactly half an hour. He started off by summarizing the facts of the case.
Quoting various Supreme Court and high court judgments that the delay was a ground for commutation of sentence, Jethmalani said, “Unless the delay is properly explained or justified, it makes the death penalty immoral, illegal and, according to me, unconstitutional.”
Senior counsel R Vaigai and human rights lawyer Csolin Gonsalves appeared for Santhan and Perarivalan respectively. Even as the arguments continued inside, news trickled to the crowd waiting outside the court hall that the Tamil Nadu assembly had passed a unanimous resolution that the death sentence should be commuted. While lawyers were still discussing this development, the order of stay was passed.
“The main contention raised in all the writ petitions is the delay of 11 years and four months in the disposal of the mercy petitions submitted by the petitioners, seeking commutation of the death sentence imposed on them,” the order said.