New Delhi, Feb. 16: The Supreme Court today declined to entertain the plea of four Veerappan associates for early hearing to stop their purported execution tomorrow on the ground that no proof has been adduced to establish the hanging has been so scheduled.
The four associates of the slain sandalwood smuggler — Gnanprakasham, Simon Anthoniyappa, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran — approached the top court around 8pm with their petition. But the registrar examined the plea and rejected it, saying the matter “would be heard in due course”.
The convicts, represented by senior counsel Colin Gonzalves, had contended that they cannot be hanged as there was a delay of nine years by the President and the government in deciding their mercy petitions filed in 2004.
This, they claimed, amounted to violation of their fundamental right under Article 21 which says: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
Gonzalves told The Telegraph: “We had information that all four of them will be hanged tomorrow. But the Supreme Court registrar declined to accept the matter for urgent hearing, saying there is no proof that these people will be hanged. He said the matter would be heard in due course.
“We now only hope that our information that they would be hanged on Sunday is wrong.”
The petition, filed by the four convicts through counsel Shamik Narain said: “The petitioners submit that the Karnataka prison manual and rules made thereunder explicitly provide that the execution of the death sentence shall be scheduled not earlier than 14 days from the date of receipt of the rejection of the mercy petitions.
“Therefore, since the petitioners were informed about the rejection of their mercy petitions on the evening of 12th February, 2013, their executions cannot be scheduled before 26th February 2013.”
The mercy pleas of the four were rejected by the President on Tuesday. They were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in January 2004 in connection with the killing of 22 policemen in a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993.
The petitioners said a decision on their mercy plea had been delayed by nine years, and as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court “undue long delay in the execution of the sentence of death will entitle the condemned prisoner to approach this court under Article 32”.
They also had the right to approach the high court under Article 226 and seek a commutation of the sentence, they contended.
“The petitioners further submit that unless they are allowed to access these rights they will be executed in complete violation of the procedure established by law.”