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Posted on Feb 20, 10:53PM | IANS
New Delhi, Feb 20 : The Supreme Court Wednesday extended the stay on the execution of four aides of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, saying it would await the verdict by another bench on the larger question of inordinate delay in deciding their mercy petitions.
An apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Vikramajit Sen adjourned the matter for six weeks to await the verdict.
While adjourning the matter, the court pointed to the possibility of conflicting orders in the event of its hearing the matter.
"The proper course will be to adjourn further hearing till judgment is delivered by the other bench", the court said in its order.
A Supreme Court bench headed by G.S. Singhvi in April 19, 2012, had reserved the judgment on the question of whether, in a case where there is inordinate delay in deciding a mercy petition, the convict is entitled to any relief or not.
The cases related to those where decision on mercy petitions were delayed for eight to 11 years.
The court addressed the larger issue of delay in the course of the hearing of the petition by Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and Narender Nath Das -- both sentenced to death -- who said that there was an inordinate delay in deciding their mercy petitions and the same should be commuted to life imprisonment.
In this case, the court had sought the records of all the cases of death sentences that were pending in all the states for a long time including those who had applied for mercy petition and those who had not.
At the outset of the hearing, Chief Justice Kabir said that there were three options as same issue was heard by the another bench of the court headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi.
The Chief Justice said one option was to refer the matter to the bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and other was to await for the judgment and till then keep the matter pending.
Senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina, who, along with Ram Jethmalani, was amicus curie in the court of Justice Singhvi favoured sending the matter to that court as it had heard it to a considerable length of time.
"Better course will be refer the matter to that bench," said Jethmalani.
The apex court was moved Monday (Feb 18) seeking the stay of the execution of the death sentence of four Veerappan aides -- Simon, Gnana Prakash, Madhiah and Bilavendra -- convicted for triggering a landmine blast that resulted into the death of 22 Karnataka Police personnel.
The court had stayed the execution of the death sentence Monday.