The government Friday failed in another attempt to delay the hearing of the petition filed by three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case for commutation of their death sentences, citing delay in disposal of their mercy pleas.
A Bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam turned down the government’s suggestion to also hear with their petition a separate PIL that had questioned the discretion exercised by the President and Governors to commute death sentence into life term “without objectively verifiable parameters”.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra requested the Bench to hear the petition filed by author Pinki Virani as, he said, the plea dealt with issues “similar and connected” to the plea filed by the three convicts.
Luthra urged the court to also take up Virani’s petition since the issue of commutation has also been challenged by her. Virani had requested the court to lay down strict guidelines for pardoning powers and cited instances where ex-President Pratibha Patil commuted to life term capital punishment for five convicts in four cases in which victims were children. Three cases were of rape and murder and one was of murder.
His contention was, however, immediately shot down by the Bench, saying: “That has to be decided separately. We can take it up together only if it is an identical matter. But it is not so. We will deal with that petition separately.”
Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, have sought commutation of their death sentences, questioning the 11-year-long delay by the President in disposal of their mercy pleas.
Meanwhile, the lawyers for the convicts concluded their arguments in the matter, maintaining that there was unexplained delay in deciding their mercy pleas. The lawyers questioned as to how such petitions by other convicts, who filed it later, were decided but those by the three convicts remained pending.
The court, while hearing them, made it clear that it would not go into the merit of the case and will only decide as to “how long can they be confined in solitary confinement or in jail pending decision by a constitutional authority”.
It has now fixed the hearing for Tuesday when the government is expected to conclude its arguments in the case. A day before, The Indian Express had reported that the government is set to file a review petition against the court verdict that “delay is a ground for commuting death penalty to life sentence”.