Abolish death penalty, says Karunanidhi

DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Monday virtually backed the demand for a CBI probe into the 1993 landmine blast case in which four aides of slain sandalwood smuggler Veerappan are facing gallows as he renewed his demand for abolishing the death penalty.

He said the families of the four death row convicts had claimed them to be innocent and therefore their plea for a CBI probe into the matter "cannot be ignored".

"Those in power should realise that while the culprits could escape (the law), the innocent should not be punished," he said even as the four got a temporary relief with the Supreme Court staying their execution on a petition by them seeking commutation of the sentence citing delay of eight years in disposal of their mercy plea by the President.

Veerappan's elder brother Gnanaprakash and his aides Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran were awarded death sentence in 2004. Karunanidhi's comments in a letter to his partymen come in the backdrop of recent hangings of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab and Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru .

Pressing for abolition of death penalty, the DMK patriarch said, "Had this opinion, which is being stressed for a long time, been given due consideration, death penalties which are continuously being implemented now could have been prevented." He said the Centre, legal experts and courts should ponder over this and consider "recommending removing hanging from the law books in the interest of human rights and humanity".

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