Karela Fry

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Sentenced to death 11 years ago

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DNA

The Madras High Court Tuesday stayed for eight weeks the hanging of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, the three Rajiv Gandhi assassins. They were scheduled to be executed on September 9 following the rejection of their clemency petition by the President of India.

A bench consisting of Justices C Nagappan and M Sathayanarayanan said there had been a delay of more than 11 years in the disposal of the petitions filed by the convicts to the President seeking clemency. The judges issued notices to the Centre, the state and Tamil Nadu police seeking explanation in the inordinate delay in the disposal of the clemency petition.

The assassins were represented by senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, R Vaigai and Colin Gonsalves. They told the court the inordinate and unexplainable delay in disposing of the mercy petitions violated Article 21 of the Constitution (Protection of life and personal liberty).

The mercy petitions of the three convicts were rejected by President Pratibha Patil early this month, 11 years after the submission of the petitions and 20 years after the assassination.

Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan said in their petition the delay in refusing their clemency petition was unwarranted, illegal and unconstitutional.

Earlier in the day, the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly passed a unanimous resolution asking the government to commute the death sentence of the three convicts as there was discontent among the people of the state due to the delay in rejecting the mercy petition.

The intense politicking on this issue had fallen below the media radar during the recent tamasha in the Ramlila maidan. TOI reported a person who committed suicide to stop three people from being hanged! Political drama of the worst sort, but, sadly, all too common in Tamil Nadu:

The campaign to seek commutation of the death sentences of three convicts in former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination turned tragic on Sunday with a woman setting herself afire to allegedly press for the demand, according to a letter recovered from her.

Senkodi, 27, died on her way to hospital after her self-immolation outside a government office in Kanchipuram, police said.

The Hindu reported:

Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi on Monday appealed to the Centre and the State government to save the lives of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, the death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Jayalalitha, currently the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, absolved herself of all responsibility, as the Hindu reported

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa told the Legislative Assembly on Monday that she did not have the power to annul the death sentence awarded to Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, or put their execution on hold, after the rejection of their mercy petitions by the President.

“As Chief Minister I don’t have the powers to change the ruling after the President of India has rejected their mercy petitions. Through the House, I request leaders of political parties and others not to carry on the propaganda that I have the powers to change the decision,” she said in a suo motu statement.

At the same time, she said, a fresh application seeking reconsideration of the earlier decision could be filed before the President by the condemned person or anyone on his behalf “if there is a change of circumstance or if any new material is available.”

“Once the President has rejected a mercy petition, all future applications in this behalf should be addressed to and would be dealt with by the President of India,” she said, quoting a March 5, 1991 directive from the Union Home Ministry.

IBN Live reported contrary views:

The power of the governor to grant pardon is absolute and will not be affected by the rejection of an earlier commutation petition by the President, said national president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) V Suresh.

Echoing Suresh’s view, G Kurinji, member of the city-based Forum Against War Crimes and Genocide and vice-president of PUCL, said, “If the State government takes a decision to effect the commutation, they could do the same with a resolution in the Council of Ministers and it needs to be sent or communicated to the Governor for action.”

Speaking to Express on his organisation’s clemency petition to the Governor and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on behalf of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, Suresh said that repeated commutation petitions are permissible notwithstanding previous rejections of such pleas.

Article 161 of the Constitution, he said, is in the nature of a residuary sovereign power which does not get extinguished on the rejection of a clemency petition.

That was the background. Now, after the resolution in the assembly and the interim order by the court, the Hindu reported developments:

Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday said the resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly seeking amnesty for Rajiv Gandhi’s killers was not binding on anybody.

“The state government resolution is not binding on anyone. The state government passes a resolution… I am sure that at the level at which it must be taken seriously and considered it will be taken,” Mr. Khurshid told reporters outside Parliament House here in reply to a question.

Mr. Khurshid evaded questions on the High Court decision staying the execution but maintained that it was only an interim order.

“I cannot interfere with any high court decision. I am only here cognizant of what the decision of the President was. That is all I know,” he said.

Reacting to the developments, Janata Party president Subranium Swamy appealed to the Prime Minister to move the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court order.

“I do not agree with the Madras High court judgement,” Mr. Swamy told reporters outside Parliament.

”… We cannot be seen to be soft on terrorists,” he said.

Clearly, one man’s terrorist is another’s patriot. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Aug 30, 2011

Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir agreed with Subramaniam Swamy in his tweet:

If J&K assembly had passed a resolution similar to the Tamil Nadu one for Afzal Guru would the reaction have been as muted? I think not.

There was instant mis-interpretation of this statement from all around the political sphere. Twitter comments from people showed that most of them understood the point: another example of the total inability of (most of) the political establishment to get it.

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  1. […] capital punishment to terrorists are disposed of, there is some discussion of the death penalty in the media and by politicians. Here, in a low-profile case, the Supreme Court makes its view public. The Deccan Herald records: […]


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