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Parties step up campaign to grant reprieve for Rajiv killers

Chennai: With 11 days left for the execution of three Rajiv Gandhi assassins, DMK and some other parties today stepped up their campaign for getting them reprieve while Chief Minister Jayalalithaa made it clear she has no power to grant them pardon.

A petition seeking seeking review of the President’s order rejecting the clemency pleas of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, facing gallows on September 9, may come up for hearing before the Madras High Court tomorrow.

Several parts of the state witnessed student protests, attempt to picket railway stations and rail roko agitations.

Pleading pardon for the three, DMK chief M Karunanidhi appealed to the Centre to save the three lives and said “Had young leader Rajiv Gandhi been alive today, that noble man would have definitely come forward to save the lives of Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan, responding to the voice of true Tamils and in accordance with the golden saying of Anna, forget and forgive,” he said in a statement.

Jayalalithaa, expressing her inability to accept the demand of political leaders for clemency, quoted a Home Ministry directive of 1991 which made it clear that when a petition for grant of pardon in death sentences has earlier been rejected by the President, it would not be open for the State to invoke Article 161 to commute the death sentence.

The Chief Minister decried Karunanidhi seeking her intervention noting that in 2000 he had recommended to the Governor to reject the mercy plea of the three and commutation of death sentence to Nalini to life.

The DMK patriarch had last week urged Congress President Sonia Gandhi to intervene on the issue, saying appeals by Tamils across the world needed to be considered in the spirit of “forget and forgive”.

PMK founder S Ramadoss and MDMK leader Vaiko demanded that capital punishment to the three be commuted to life.

However, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said there should be no interference in the decision to hang the three.

Noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani said, “it is the right of the person not be be punished more than what the law allows.” In this case, the additional puinishment is agony and suffering of people who are sentenced to be hanged and every day for them is a day of death, he said.

Senior counsel V Chandrasekharan, who had earlier argued the case for the three in the Madras High Court, made a mention before it about his intention to challenge the Presidential order, rejecting the clemency of the three.

The judge N Paul Vasantkumar asked the lawyer to file the petition, which could be taken up for hearing tomorrow.

Chandrasekharan has contended that the three had already served 20 years in prison and deserved relief. He also questioned the delay of 11 years in rejecting the mercy plea.

Students and human rights activists staged demonstrations in Coimbatore, Thanjavur and Madurai, Kancheepuram and Chennai demanding abolution of capital punishment and release of the three.

Police in Madurai said there were three attempts by supporters of outlawed LTTE to set themselves ablaze.

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