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Government opposes commuting death sentence of Rajiv Gandhi killers

CNN-IBN
Feb 04, 2014 at 03:39pm IST

New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday opposed commuting the death sentence of Rajiv Gandhi's killers to life term. The government argued against showing any leniency to the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case saying that the President's office cannot be blamed for delay.

"There was a delay by the government in deciding the mercy plea, but it not unexplainable or inordinate delay. The President's office can not be blamed for this," said Attorney General GE Vahanvati in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court reserved its judgement in case, which is unlikely to come today.

Rajiv Gandhi's killers had filed up a plea in the apex court seeking commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment citing delay of over 11 years in deciding their mercy petitions by the President.

Their main contention was that the delay in disposal of the mercy petitions by 11 years and four months made the execution of the death sentence "unduly harsh and excessive," amounting to violation of their right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The petition came days after the apex court ruled that inordinate delay in deciding mercy pleas and mental illness are grounds to commute death penalties - giving relief to 15 convicts, and to death row convict Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar just days ago.

The apex court on May, 2012 had decided to adjudicate itself the pleas of Rajiv Gandhi killers against their death penalty and had directed that their petitions, pending with the Madras High Court, be sent to it. The court had passed the order on a petition by LK Venkat seeking transfer of their pleas out of Tamil Nadu on the ground that free and fair hearing would not possible in the state due to the surcharged atmosphere, favouring the death row convicts.

On a petition by the three death row convicts, the Madras High Court had earlier stayed their hanging and issued notices to the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government. Their main contention was that the delay in disposal of the mercy petitions by 11 years and four months made the execution of the death sentence "unduly harsh and excessive," amounting to violation of their right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

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