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Court not to review Rajiv trio relief

New Delhi, April 1: The Supreme Court today dismissed the Centre’s plea for a review of its February 18 order commuting the death sentences of three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case to life imprisonment.

The only option left before the Centre now is to file a curative petition. In such a petition, apart from the bench that passed the order, two or three more judges hear the matter.

“We have carefully gone through the review petition and the connected papers. We find no merit in the review petition and the same is accordingly dismissed,” the bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh said in a terse order passed in the judges’ chamber at 3pm.

The apex court had commuted the death sentences of V. Sriharan alias Murugan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu to life imprisonment on the ground of the 11-year delay in deciding their mercy pleas.

The court had said that undue delay in deciding mercy petitions is arbitrary, capricious and whimsical, and thereby violated the fundamental right of an individual, including death-row convicts.

Rajiv was killed by a suicide bomber in May 1991 while campaigning in Tamil Nadu. A fourth person, a woman, was also given the death sentence but it was later commuted to a life term.

While commuting the death sentences, the court had said that Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan would remain in jail for the rest of their lives, subject to remission available under Section 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Under this provision, the government can release life convicts for good behaviour and other considerations after they have spent at least 14 years in jail.

“Regardless and independent of the suffering it causes, delay makes the process of execution of death sentence unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious and thereby violates procedural due process guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and the dehumanising effect is presumed in such cases,” the apex court had said.