Apex court stays execution of three in Dharmapuri bus burning

Friday, January 28, 2011

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Friday stayed the execution of three people who were awarded death sentence in the 2000 Dharmapuri bus burning case where three girl students were charred to death in the wake of an agitation by AIADMK activists.

In February 2000, three Tamil Nadu Agricultural University girl students were burnt alive and several others sustained burns when the bus they were travelling in was set on fire by AIADMK activists protesting party chief J. Jayalalithaa’s conviction in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay Hotel unauthorised construction case.

The apex court bench of Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar issued notice to the Supreme Court registrar on the plea of the petitioners seeking amendment of its (apex court) 1966 rules so that the matter relating to a death penalty case be heard either by a bench of five judges or at least three judges.

The petitioner has sought that the petition seeking review of the apex court judgment in death penalty cases be heard in the open court and the petitioner seeking review should be afforded an opportunity to advance oral arguments in defence of their plea.

In August 2010, the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice B.S. Chauhan upheld the death sentence awarded to C. Muniappan, Nedu Nedunchezhian and Madhu Ravindran.

But on Friday, it stayed their execution that the court had upheld.

The Salem trial court convicted the three on Feb 16, 2007. On Dec 6, 2007, the Madras High Court dismissed the appeal by the three convicts. On Aug 30, 2010, the apex court upheld their conviction and award of death sentence.

A Chennai court had in February 2000 convicted and sentenced Jayalalithaa and four others to a one-year jail term each for legalising the unauthorised construction of the seven-storeyed Pleasant Stay Hotel at Kodaikanal when she was the chief minister 1991-96. This had triggered a statewide agitation.

The petitioner who sought the stay of the execution of the sentence pleaded that the apex court rule of 1966 should be amended in line with the recommendation of the 187 Report of the Law Commission. By the said report, the Law Commission had recommended that all the death penalty matters be heard by a bench of five judges or at the very least by a bench of three judges.

The petitioner has also pleaded that their petition, seeking review of the Aug 30, 2010 judgment which had confirmed the death sentence, should be heard in the open court. And the petitioner be permitted to advance their oral arguments.

At present the review petitions are decided by the concerned judges who had delivered the judgment in their chambers and the petitioners are not afforded any opportunity to advance arguments in defence of their plea for the review.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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