| Press Trust of India

Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan were convicted in 1998 for the 1991 killing. (File photo)

( February 18, 2014, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) The fate of three death row convicts in former PM Rajiv Gandhi's assassination case will be sealed today when the Supreme Court will pronounce its verdict on their plea for commutation of their sentence to life imprisonment on ground of delay in deciding their mercy plea.

The judgement will be delivered by a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam. The bench had reserved its verdict on the plea of three convicts -- Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan -- on February 4.

Their plea was strongly opposed by Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati, who argued that it was not a fit case for the top court since there was "not a word of remorse" in the convicts' petition for mercy.

"They were leading a disciplined life, entertaining and educating inmates, so there is no agony, torture or dehumanizing effect due to delay," he had said.

The lawyer for the convicts countered the argument by saying that "agony and torture need not be physical injuries."

Last month, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark verdict that places new restrictions on executing prisoners. The top court commuted the death sentences of 15 convicts on January 21, announcing that "inordinate and inexplicable" delays in carrying out executions were grounds for reducing their original punishment.

The three men whose fate would be decided today were convicted in 1998 for Mr Gandhi's assassination in 1991. Their mercy petition was sent to the President of India, the last stage in the process of appeals, in 2000 and was rejected 11 years later. Their hanging was stayed in 2011 on the orders of the Madras High Court.

In 2012, the Supreme Court took up the petitions of the three convicts on the ground that a fair hearing would not be possible in Tamil Nadu due to the surcharged atmosphere in favour of the convicts.

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