Supreme Court of India Commuted Death Penalties of Rajiv Gandhi Killers

The former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on 21st May 1991 at Sriperumpudur, near Chennai,Tamilnadu by ‘human-suicide- bomb-blast’.

Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumpudur on 21 05 1991

A total of 26 persons were convicted with death penalty in the year 1998 by TADA court and as and when the cases went to the Supreme Court of India, the death penalties of the following 4 persons only were confirmed in the year 2000:

  • V.Sriharan alias Murugan
  • A.G.Perarivalan
  • T.Suthendra Raja alias Santhan and
Murugan Perarivalan Santhan
  •  Nalini Wife of Murugan
Nalini Murugan
The female convict-Nalini’s death penalty was commuted to life term by the Tamil Nadu Governor in the year 2000,  following a recommendation by the state cabinet and a public appeal by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

And the mercy petitions of remaining 3 of the Rajiv Gandhi killers, Murugan, Perarivalan and Santhan  were rejected by the President of India in the year 2011 after 11 years.

The death row convicts filed writ petitions in the Madras High Court challenging the President of India’s rejection of their mercy pleas after more than 11 years and the Madras High Court had stayed their hangings in the year 2011.

The Supreme Court of India had transferred to itself the above writ petitions from  the Madras High Court in May 2012.

On 18th February 2014,  the Supreme Court of India bench comprising the following 3 Justices:

  • Chief Justice of India- P.Sathasivam (Head of the Bench),
  • Justice Ranjan Gogoi and
  • Justice Shiva Kirti Singh
has delivered an historic and a landmark judgement in commuting the death penalties into life imprisonment of the following 3 of the killers of the former Prime Minister of India- Rajiv Gandhi on the grounds of inordinate delay in disposing of their mercy petitions by the President of India
According to the Supeme Court Bench “Life Imprisonment” means imprisonment for life. That is the life prisoners should die inside jail.

However, the Supreme Court Bench has advised the State government of Tamilnadu  to  exercise its remission powers under Section 432 and 433 of the Criminal Procedure Codes and consider release of the 3 convicts who had been languishing  in jail for more than 23 years.

It is notable that the Supreme Court of India had commuted death penalties of 15 convicts into life imprisonment on 21st January 2014, announcing that “inordinate and inexplicable” delays in carrying out executions were grounds for reducing their original punishment.

Will India soon remove the capital punishment / Death Penalty totally ?

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