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Veerappan's aides will hang despite SC intervention

February 20, 2013 14:24 IST

Legal experts say that the Supreme Court cannot overturn the decision of the President. It can only suggest the government on the manner in which death sentences need to be dealt with. Vicky Nanjappa reports

Hanging of four aides of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan has been further delayed with the Supreme Court on Wednesday extending its interim order staying the execution of death sentence imposed on them for killing 22 police personnel in a landmine blast in Karnataka in 1993.

However, the Supreme Court’s decision poses an important question -- Is a decision taken by the country’s President amenable to a review by the Apex court?

Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Santhosh Hegde told “The Apex court can examine a mercy petition. Although the scope in reviewing a decision of a President is extremely limited, the Supreme Court could still go into certain details that were considered while deciding a mercy petition.

Article 142 gives the Supreme Court power to do complete justice and it could find fault in a mercy petition. However, at times such issues do send out confusing signals. If the order that led up to the mercy petition is arbitrary then the Supreme Court could examine it, but then the scope is very limited.

Ideally in such cases, instead of looking into the President’s order, the court could go into the recommendation that was made by the Union home ministry. In this case, the matter has already been adjudicated by the judiciary and it was the Supreme Court which had awarded death penalty to the four accused in this case.

The Supreme Court could, however, make suggestions while deciding on mercy petitions.

I feel that the government should also play an active role in this. Either the government should delete death sentence or at least fix a time frame to decide on the matter.

However, regarding the scope of the Supreme Court in examining a matter already decided by the President, it cannot be excluded by looking into it at any stage. If there is something that has arisen after the awarding of the death sentence, then the court can look into the matter, but then the scope is very limited.”

Senior counsel, C V Nagesh told “The Supreme Court is seized off a matter in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This petition before the Supreme Court has been filed solely on the issue that there has been a delay in deciding on the death sentence. One should understand that the Supreme Court will not examine the merits of the matter. That has already been decided by the court and the President.

The only issue before it is the delay factor which it will look into. Although the Supreme Court cannot overturn the President’s decision, it can suggest the government on the manner in which death sentences need to be dealt with.

The law is very clear that an order of the President is not amenable for an appeal before the Supreme Court and neither does it have the power to reject such an order which attains finality once the President signs on it.

Vicky Nanjappa