The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to review its February 18 judgment commuting the death sentence of three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, into life imprisonment.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh in a brief order passed in the CJI’s chamber said, “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 had already rejected the review petition filed by the Centre against the January 21 verdict commuting the death sentence of 15 convicts, including some of the associates of forest brigand Veerappan. The convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assasination case were granted reprieve applying the principles enunciated in the January 21 verdict.
In its review petition, the Centre contended that the court did not consider the merits of the case and also ventured into the domain of the government by commuting the death sentence in the case. It further contended that the February 18 judgment was passed without jurisdiction by the three-judge bench instead of by a larger bench of five judges as the case involved substantial interpretation of law and provisions of the Constitution.
The Centre said, “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. In the present case, the issue raised was that of the commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay, which allegedly attracted Article 21 of the Constitution in favour of the convicts. Therefore, it involved a substantial issue of interpretation of the Constitution and ought to have been heard by a bench of five judges, as mandated by the Constitution.”
The Centre contended that the apex court interfered with the order of the President rejecting the plea for mercy without its jurisdiction.
“Furthermore, the interference of this Court with the merits of the order of the rejection issued by the President, in exercise of the power conferred by Article 72, is without jurisdiction. Once the President had, in exercise of his power under Article 72 of the Constitution, rejected the mercy petition, this Court only has a limited power, under judicial review, to disturb the order of the President.”
The Centre said, “if the Supreme Court was of the opinion that there has not been a proper consideration of the mercy petition, the same ought to have been remitted back to the President for fresh reconsideration. Alternatively, if the issue raised was with respect to delay, as in the present case, the court ought to have referred the matter to the President requesting an expeditious disposal of the petition. Further the judgment commuting the sentence in this case goes contrary to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which leaves this to the jurisdiction of the appropriate government - the central government - as per Section 432, 433 and 435 Cr.P.C.” (Source: the Hindu)