Rajiv Gandhi killers’ death commuted

India’s Supreme Court has commuted the death sentences of three men convicted of plotting the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Chief Justice P Sathasivam spared the men, citing delays in deciding their mercy plea.

Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan were members of the Tamil Tiger rebels who were defeated by Sri Lanka in 2009.

Gandhi’s murder was seen as retaliation for his having sent Indian peacekeepers to Sri Lanka in 1987.

In 2006, the Tigers expressed “regret” for the murder which had shocked India.

On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, said the time taken by the government to decide the mercy pleas – 11 years – was the ground for commuting the death sentences.

“We are confident that the mercy plea can be decided much faster than what is being done now,” Justice Sathasivam was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

“We implore the government to render advice in a reasonable amount of time for taking a decision on mercy pleas,” he added.

Gandhi was assassinated at an election rally in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Nalini Sriharan, an Indian Tamil married to Murugan, was also convicted in connection with the assassination but her death sentence was commuted to life in jail in 1999.

Last month, the Supreme Court commuted the sentences of 15 death row prisoners to life in jail on the grounds of delay.

India rarely carries out executions, which are often delayed indefinitely or commuted by the president.