ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Abolish Capital Punishment

The focus on the death penalty in the Rajiv Gandhi case is an opportune time to build support for its abolition.

The Madras High Court’s stay of the execution of the three who had been given the death penalty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case is to be welcomed. Following President Pratibha Patil’s rejection of their mercy petition, A G Perarivalan, V Sriharan (Murugan) and T Suthendraraja (Santhan) were to be executed by hanging on 9 September 2011.

This is now another twist in a two-decade-long affair. In an extraordinary judgment in 1998, all the 26 accused in the case were awarded the death penalty by the special trial court; the Supreme Court fortunately confirmed the death penalty on only four of them, commuting the punishment on the others. Of the four, Nalini’s sentence was also commuted to life imprisonment in 2000. Since then, the mercy petitions of these three men have been waiting for a decision. Between the Government of Tamil Nadu, which delayed forwarding the case file to New Delhi, and the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, which sat on it for years, it has taken 11 years for a final decision. On 12 August, President Pratibha Patil finally decided, on Home Minister P Chidambaram’s advice, to reject the mercy petition.

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