The Supreme Court dismissed on Wednesday the centre’s curative petition against its 2014 judgment commuting the death sentence of three convicts to life term in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, upholding a verdict that brought into focus the inordinate delays in executions in India.
The central government plea had sought a review of last year’s decision when the SC reduced the punishment while saying the prisoners had been on death row for too long.
“We have gone through the curative petitions and the relevant documents. In our opinion, no case is made out within the parameters indicated in the decision of this court (in the Rupa Hurra case laying down the principle of curative petition),” read the order from the bench of chief justice HL Dattu and justices TS Thakur, AR Dave, Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh on Wednesday.
The former prime minister was killed by a suicide bomber from the LTTE while campaigning in an election in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur city in 1991 after he dispatched Indian troops to aid Sri Lanka in its fight against the separatist militant group.
A total of 26 people were found guilty of conspiring to kill Gandhi, but 19 of them were later acquitted.
The Centre said in its curative petition that the killers did not deserve any mercy and the victims in the assassination case were not heard before the death penalty was commuted.
The top court on February 18 last year commuted the sentences of AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, Sriharan alias Murugan and T Suthentiraraja alias Santhan, who were the only ones facing the death penalty in the case at the time, in a decision that the Centre challenged in the SC two days later.
The Union government's plea opposing a Tamil Nadu government decision to release the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case awaits a final verdict from the court.
About 500 people are on death row in India, many of them for years. 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon, who is slated to be hanged on Wednesday, was awarded the death penalty in 2007.
The court had earlier said it was essential for the convicts to suffer and realise the victim’s pain through “slow poison”.
While commuting the sentences, the Supreme Court left the option open for Tamil Nadu to grant remissions to the convicts under the executive powers of the state government. The state announced remission for the prisoners within a day of the judgment.
On the Centre's plea, the SC stayed the release of the convicts and said the state was expected to comply with procedure and remission was not automatic.