NEW DELHI, April 1 (Xinhua) -- India's Supreme Court Tuesday reiterated that three assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi would not be hanged, dismissing a review plea by the central government.
A three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, gave its order in the wake of a review petition by the Indian government against the apex court's February ruling commuting the death sentence of the trio -- Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan -- to life imprisonment.
"We have carefully gone through the review petition and the connected papers. We find no merit in the review petition and the same is accordingly dismissed," the judges said.
Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber of the now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam while he was campaigning in an election in the southern state of Tamil Nadu's town of Sriperumbudur in May 1991.
A total of seven people were convicted by a trial court in 1998. Santhan, Murugan, Perarivalan were sentenced to death by hanging, along with a fourth person, Nalini, whose death penalty was later commuted to a life imprisonment. Three others were given life terms.
The trio had appealed to the Supreme Court against their death sentence, after it spared 15 convicts from execution in January, citing inordinate delays by the Indian President in deciding their mercy pleas. And in February this year, the court also reduced the trio's death sentence.
But Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed displeasure over the order, and the government also filed the review petition soon after the Tamil Nadu government said that it would release all the seven convicts who have already spent 20 years in jail.
"The assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi was an attack on the soul of India. The release of the killers of a former prime minister of India and our great leader, as well as several other innocent Indians, would be contrary to all principles of justice," the Prime Minister said.