The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of death sentence of four aides of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.
On an urgent mentioning by the petitioners’ lawyer, a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said the four would not be hanged till further orders.
The bench said it would hear the writ petition challenging President’s decision to reject the four aides’ mercy plea on February 20.
“In the meantime, the execution of death sentence of four convicts shall remain stayed,” said the bench, also comprising Justice A R Dave and Justice Vikramajit Sen.
Veerappan's elder brother Gnanaprakash, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran were awarded death sentence in 2004 in connection with a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993 in which 22 police personnel were killed.
President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected their plea on February 13. The four are lodged in Belgaum jail in Karnataka.
Attorney General GE Vahanvati objected vehemently to the petition.
He questioned its maintainability and contended that SC entertaining such pleas, moved after President declined the mercy petition, would set a bad precedent.
He further said the copy of the petition was neither given to the Centre nor to the Karnataka government till Monday morning. Vahanvati was present after the court asked him to assist it.
Families hope for reprieve
Bangalore:The stay on execution has raised hopes of the families of the four death row convicts for a reprieve.
Gnanaprakash’s wife, Selva Meri, said on Monday, “My husband was falsely implicated. I hope we get justice.”
His daughter, Fenitha Meri, said, “If the court decides to execute him, we will have to hang ourselves.”
Simon’s brother, Jairaj, said he wanted the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the case.
Bilavendran’s son-in-law, Ramesh, said the police linked his father-in-law, an electrician, to Veerappan, presuming he would have helped make bombs for the brigand.
The four families, living in border villages of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, have also found support from Veerappan’s widow, V Muthulakshmi.