The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on the plea of death row convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case seeking commutation of their sentence to life imprisonment, which was vehemently opposed by the Centre.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief justice P Sathasivam reserved the order after hearing the arguments of counsel appearing for three convicts -- Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, and Attorney General G E Vahanvati who represented the central government.
The AG contended that it was not a fit case for the apex court to commute death sentence on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea.
Admitting that there has been delay in deciding the mercy petitions, Vahanvati, however, contended that the delay was not unreasonable, unexplainable and unconscionable to commute death penalty.
He further submitted that the apex court's recent verdict, holding that inordinate and inexplicable delay can be ground for commutation, is not applicable in this case as the condemned prisoners did not have to go through agony, torture and dehumanising experience as it was held in the January 21 judgement.
The counsel, appearing for the convicts, opposed the arguments of Vahanvati, saying that they have suffered due to the delay by the government in deciding the mercy petitions and the apex court should intervene and commute their death sentence to life term.
The convicts, in their petition, submitted that mercy plea of other condemned prisoners, which were filed after them, were decided but their petitions were kept pending by the government.