Supreme Court of India Commutes Death Sentence to Life Prisonment for Rajiv Gandhi’s Killer

New Delhi, 18 Feb-2014 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death penalty of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers to life term, citing the 11-year delay in deciding their mercy pleas. With this, the three convicts on death row in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case — Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan — have been spared the gallows.

Supreme Court of India Commutes Death Sentence to Life Prisonment for Rajiv Gandhi’s Killer

Supreme Court of India Commutes Death Sentnce to Life Prisonment for Rajiv Gandhi's Killer
Image credit: PTI File photo
There had been inordinate delay on government and President’s part to decide their mercy pleas, the SC judges said. The apex court rejected the Centre’s contention that delay in deciding mercy plea of convicts Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan did not result in agony.
We implore govt to render advice in reasonable time to the President for taking a decision on mercy pleas, the court said. The top court has asked the government to add a new criteria for considering commuting death penalty to life imprisonment — inordinate delay in deciding mercy petitions.

Their plea was strongly opposed by the Centre which had said that it was not a fit case for the apex court to commute death sentence on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea. Admitting that there has been delay in deciding the mercy petitions, the government, however, had contended that the delay was not unreasonable, unexplainable and unconscionable to commute death penalty.

The counsel, appearing for the convicts, had contested the Centre’s arguments, saying that they have suffered due to the delay by the government in deciding the mercy petitions and the apex court should intervene and commute their death sentence to life term. The convicts had submitted that mercy plea of other condemned prisoners, which were filed after them, were decided but their petitions were kept pending by the government.

The apex court had, in May 2012, decided to adjudicate the petitions of Rajiv Gandhi killers against their death penalty and had directed that their plea, pending with the Madras high court, be sent to it. (


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