New Delhi: In a set back to central government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the Centre's plea for review of its verdict holding that undue delay by the government in deciding mercy plea can be a ground to commute death sentence of a condemned prisoner.
The apex court rejected the Centre's contention that the apex court's January 21 judgment by which 15 condemned prisoners were granted life and paved the way for similar relief for Rajiv Gandhi killers, is "patently illegal and suffers from errors apparent".
"We have carefully gone through the review petitions and related papers. We find no merit in the review petitions and the same are accordingly dismissed," said a bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and justices Ranjan Gogoi, Shiva Kirti Singh.
The court also rejected the plea for "permission to hearing the review plea in open court."
The three-judge bench, which decided the review petition in chamber, declined the Centre's submission that such an important issue should have been heard by a Constitution bench and the judgment passed by a three-judge bench was without "jurisdiction".
Earlier, the government in its plea had said, "It is respectfully submitted that the impugned judgment is patently illegal, suffers from errors apparent on the face of the record and flies in the face of well-established principles of law laid down by this court and contained in the Constitution and other statutes."
"It is submitted that in the present case, the issue raised was that of commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay, which allegedly attracted Article 21 (right to life) in favour of the convicts. ....," the plea said adding a bench of five judges ought to have heard the issue.