Supreme Court stays execution of Veerappan's aides till Wednesday


In a temporary relief to four aides of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, who were to be hanged for killing 22 police personnel in a landmine blast after rejection of their mercy plea by the President, the Supreme Court today stayed the execution of their sentence.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir agreed to hear their plea for commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of eight year delay in deciding their mercy plea. The case will be heard on Wednesday.

"In the meantime, the execution of death sentence of four convicts shall remain stayed," a bench also comprising Justices A R Dave and Vikramajit Sen said.

Veerappan's elder brother Gnanaprakash and his aides 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.

Their mercy petition was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 13 and they are presently lodged in a jail in Belgaum in Karnataka.

A TADA court in Mysore had in 2001 sentenced them to life term which was enhanced to death sentence by the apex court.

Gang leader Veerappan was killed in an encounter with the Tamil Nadu Police in October 2004.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for death convicts, said their execution should be stayed as another apex court bench had reserved its order on a plea for commuting death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea.

He was referring to the petitions filed by two condemned prisoners, Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and M N Das, on whose plea for commutation of capital punishment to life term on the ground of delay, the apex court reserved its verdict in April last year.

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