The Centre on Saturday moved the Supreme Court seeking a review of its verdict holding that undue delay by the government in deciding a mercy plea can be a ground to commute the death sentence of a condemned prisoner.
The Centre submitted that the January 21 judgment, by which 15 condemned prisoners were granted life and which has paved the way for similar relief for prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s killers, is "patently illegal and suffers from errors apparent".
It said such an important issue should have been heard by a Constitution bench and the judgment passed by a three-judge bench was without "jurisdiction".
"It is respectfully submitted that the impugned judgment is patently illegal, suffers from errors apparent on the face of the record and flies in the face of well-established principles of law laid down by this court and contained in the Constitution and other statutes," the review petition said.
"It is submitted that in the present case, the issue raised was that of the commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay, which allegedly attracted Article 21 (right to life) in favour of the convicts. Therefore, it involved a substantial issue of interpretation of the Constitution and ought to have been heard by a bench of five Judges, as mandated under Article 145 of the Constitution," it said.
Referring to an earlier order by the apex court, in which it was said that the nature of crime to be considered while commuting the death sentence of a convict, the government said the previous verdict had "observed that there is a distinction between offences such as TADA and other offences".
"Thus, there is an error apparent on the face of the record, and the impugned judgment merits a review," it said.