Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Madras HC stays execution of 3 killers

Murugan and Nalini

Ten days before they were to hang, three Rajiv Gandhi killers today got a reprieve from the Madras High Court which stayed their execution for eight weeks even as the

Tamil Nadu Assembly in an unprecedented unanimous resolution appealed to the President to reconsider their mercy pleas.

Stopping the execution set for September 9, a Bench comprising justices C Nagappan and M Sathayanarayanan issued notices to the Centre, the state government and the police, observing there had been a delay of over 11 years in the disposal of their petitions seeking Presidential clemency.

Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, lodged in Vellore Jail, were convicted and sentenced to death in the case relating to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during an election rally at Sriperumpudur on May 21, 1991 by an LTTE suicide bomber.

"The High Court is doing justice. Be sure. They have stayed the execution," Ram Jethmalani, who pleaded their case, told reporters after the court's interim order.

Jethmalani, Colin Gonsalves and R Vaigai, appearing for the three convicts, contended the "inordinate and inexplicable delay" in disposing of their mercy petitions violated Article 21 of the Constitution (Protection of life and personal liberty).

Shortly before the High Court order, the Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution moved by Jayalalithaa requesting President Pratibha Patil to reconsider the mercy petitions rejected early this month.

A huge crowd outside the court cheered the interim order that was keenly awaited by leaders of several political parties and human rights groups who have launched a campaign to save the lives of the three convicts.

MDMK leader Vaiko, who has been strongly pleading for their release, was also present in court.

The delay of 11 years in deciding their mercy plea was "mental torture" for the convicts, said Jethmalani. "You make them suffer a thousand times. Is this justice?" Jethmalani asked.

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