TN opposition to case shifting

New Delhi: The Tamil Nadu government today opposed in the Supreme Court a plea to shift out of the Madras High Court the appeals of three Rajiv Gandhi assassins, challenging their death penalty on account of an 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petition by the President.

Tamil Nadu`s Additional Advocate General Gurukrishna Kumar opposed the plea for transfer of the three convicts` appeals out of the state high court, denying allegations made before the apex court that the atmosphere in the state was too "vitiated and surcharged" to hold a free and fair hearing in the case. Kumar also questioned the locus standi of petitioner L K Venkat, seeking the apex court`s direction for transfer of the case out of Madras High Court to the Supreme Court.

Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, appearing for the three convicts on death row, also opposed the transfer plea on the ground that Article 139A (relating to transfer of certain cases) gives power only to the Attorney General of India or the aggrieved parties to file a petition for transfer.

Venkat`s counsel L Nandkumar, however, submitted that a free and fair hearing of the proceedings cannot be held in the Madras High Court owing to the "surcharged, hostile and vitiated" atmosphere prevailing there.

After hearing the arguments by various parties, a bench of justices G S Signhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya asked the state to file a counter affidavit within a week and posted the matter for further hearing to October 19.