R Sedhuraman, Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, October 10. The Supreme Court today agreed to hear the petition of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar seeking commutation of his death sentence together with another plea relating to the case of assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
A Bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya listed the Rajiv Gandhi case for hearing on October 19, when the Bhullar case would also be taken up.
The Bench passed the order after the petitioner pleaded for the transfer of the petitions filed by the three convicts (Santhan, Murugan and Arivu) in the Rajiv assassination case from the Madras High Court to the SC.
The petitioner, advocate L K Venkat, contended that both the Rajiv Gandhi case and that the Bhullar case involved identical grounds for commuting the death sentences.
Both the cases were the result of long delays on the part of the government in rejecting their mercy petitions.
The government took 11 years in the case of the three convicts and 9 years for Bhullar, the petitioner argued.
Venkat contended that the situation was not conducive to hearing the petitions in the Madras HC as the State Assembly had passed a resolution seeking revocation of the death sentence on the ground of delay.
Further, hearing the Bhullar case in SC and the other in the HC would result in multiple proceedings on a single legal issue: Delays in deciding the mercy pleas.
While Bhullar was sentenced to death for his involvement in the 1993 bomb attack on then Youth Congress chief M S Bitta in Delhi, Santhan, Murugan and Arivu got a similar penalty for the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
During arguments today, the three convicts and the Tamil Nadu government opposed the plea for transferring the case from the HC.
The Bench directed both the parties to file their affidavits within a week.