The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to adjudicate itself the pleas of Rajiv Gandhi's killers against their death penalty.
A bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi directed that their petitions, pending with the Madras high court, be sent to it and listed the case for hearing on July 10.
The court passed the order on a petition by L K Venkat seeking transfer of their pleas out of Tamil Nadu as he feared that free and fair hearings would not be possible in the state due to the surcharged atmosphere there favouring the death row convicts.
The Tamil Nadu government had earlier opposed the plea to shift the case out of the Madras high court, denying allegations that the atmosphere in the state was too "vitiated and surcharged" to hold a free and fair hearing in the case.
Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, appearing for the three death row convicts -- Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan alias Arivu -- had opposed the transfer plea on the ground that Article 139A (related to transfer of certain cases) gives power only to the Attorney General of India or the aggrieved parties to file a petition for transfer.
Venkat's counsel had submitted that free and fair hearing of the proceedings cannot be held in the Madras high court owing to the "surcharged, hostile and vitiated" atmosphere prevailing there.
Acting on a petition by the three death row convicts, the Madras high court had earlier stayed their hanging and had issued notices to the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government.
The three convicts had challenged the sentence before the high court. The apex court had earlier upheld the sentence and the President had rejected their mercy pleas subsequently.