Thrice to Hang but never Hanged - Reprieve for Gurusamy
The campaign is under process to save Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan from the gallows now. The debate has risen. The discussion on death penalty, whether to have or not to have has been going on since Hitler’s Period. Travancore Princely State was the first state in India to abolish the death penalty. Many countries abolished the Death Penalty after the passing of U. N, resolution calling for a global moratorium on executions with a view to eventually abolishing the death penalty entirely.
Veera Pandia Kattabomman was executed by hanging during British regime. But one of Kattabommans heir Mr. Gurusamy 27 years back went to gallows three times and escaped. Now it is the time to see, how he was saved in 24 hours from the gallows after his appeal and mercy petitions were rejected.
In 1975 during the period of emergency Vaiko was jailed in Palayamkottai prison under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act). Gurusamy was there in the same prison convicted to death in a murder case, waiting for the decision on his mercy petition. Gurusamy was talented in folk songs, folk arts, martial arts and in addition he was very naïve. These attracted Mr. Vaiko very much and instilled his desire to save him from the gallows.
Gurusamy Naicker was convicted to death by the District Sessions court (Case No.: S.C. 87/1975) Tirunelveli. High court of Madras also confirmed the death penalty. In 1977 Supreme Court rejected the special leave appeal of Mr. Gurusamy. His mercy petitions (1977 June15, 1981 September15, 1984 June 21 on these days) were rejected by the Government of India. On a property dispute Gurusamy’s father in law attacked him with weapon. Mr. Gurusamy attacked his father in law in defense and killed.
Soon after swearing in as a Rajya Sabha D.M.K. member Vaiko met the President. Neelam .Sanjeeva Reddy with a signed appeal of 38 Parliamentarians on behalf of Gurusamy. Vaiko reminded the President of his unveiling of the statue of Kattabomman at Kayatharu, Tirunelveli district, which was donated by senior actor Sivaji Ganesan. Sanjeeva Reddy knew very well about Veerapandia Kattabomman the ancestor of Gurusamy. After hearing the sad story of Gurusamy, the President gave an interim stay for the death penaltys.
Unfortunately Gurusamy’s mercy petition was rejected. Then, Vaiko again gave another mercy petition with 50 parliamentarian signatures on behalf of Gurusamy to the President on 8th September, 1981. A copy of the same was given to the Minister of State (Home) Venkata Subbiah. Home Secretary informed and convinced the Home Minister that the government has the authority to stop .Within five days an interim stay was granted. In the meantime the Government of India asked the Tamilnadu Government to investigate and verify if Gurusamy was the heir of Veerapandia Kattabomman. It took a year to verify and solace was lasted only for one year. Zail Singh who took over the presidency after Sanjiva Reddy rejected the mercy petition. Being the direct heir of a freedom fighter will not be a good reason to reduce the sentence of any murder convict.
On June 14, 1984, the Presidential secretariat sent a notice through Home department setting 21st June, 1984 early morning as the time for execution. This news was conveyed Vaiko by his friend Shanmuga Chidhambaram, Tirunelveli. Vaiko immediately discussed with me about this situation. Then Senior Advocate. N.T. Vanamalai was woken up in the midnight to discuss, explore and to see what could be done in this regard. It was decided that Gurusamy should send telegrams individually to the Supreme Court and to the Registrar of Madras High Court to save himself. The telegrams went to right places from Gurusamy. These telegrams have to be treated as writ petition and permission has to be sought to hear.
There were only two days more, within that the execution has to be stopped. Supreme Court and the President have rejected the petition already and there was no way out at that situation. What to do now was the big question. I thought that we have to try very hard on this. Justice Chandrukar of Maharashtra took over as Chief justice of Madras High Court and he was staying at the Chepak Government guest house. It was Saturday evening and at any cost we have to get permission to inquire and it was hard situation.
When I went there to meet the Chief Justice, without any faith at all in my effort. Any way I decided to meet the chief Justice. I met the chief justice and prayed, “Honorable Justice, Gurusamy Naicker’s life has to be saved. He has sent a telegram to the Registrar of Madras High court from Palayamkottai prison. Please grant the permission to move a motion in the High Court by treating his telegram as the petition”. Chief justice heard for about 15 minutes explaining the details of the case. The Chief Justice gave the permission for hearing on humanitarian consideration. Also He said if there is a way of due process law let the benefit go to the deserved one.
Next morning by 10:30 a.m, Justice.V. Ramasamy and Justice David Annusamy while they were sitting in the 3rd court of the High Court also gave the permission for lunch motion. The High Court office gave the writ petition number for the telegram. Without any petition or affidavit getting a case number with two line telegram and conducting the case is different and peculiar. For the High court staff it was the first time, surprise and strange to have it this process. After lunch recess by 2:30 p.m. the case came for hearing before the court. Senior advocate N.T. Vanamalai represented without getting any fees; he argued and to treat the telegram as a writ petition and give interim stay for execution. also Advocate I.Subramaniam represented. Public Prosecutor Padmini Jesudurai, later was called. After the hearing the interim stay for the execution was granted. In those days there was no Telecom Communication like Cell Phones or the Fax etc. Orders of the Court have to go to Palayamkottai Central jail administrators in time. The Court passed the orders through the Public Prosecutor to the Tamilnadu Govt., Tirunelvely district Collector and Palayamkottai prison authorities to convey the interim stay and to stop the execution. That evening by 4:30 before the closure of the court they wanted to know the progress of the communication and to record the report of the Public Prosecutor. In 24 Hours the hanging rope was hanged and it was a big thing in those days. How we solved the problems and how we achieved our goal is still a very big puzzle when we think about it. About 27 years back the lesson of experience of achieving this, gives us the hope of succeeding in any endeavor with good effort.
Many friends, leaders,journalists and poets enquired the progress of the case with great interest, especially Pazha. Nedumaran,.Era. Chezhian, A. Nallasivam Marxist leader,.P. Manickam - CPI leader, S. Alagarsamy MLA, Sri Lankan Tamil leaders like A. Amirthalingam couple, Yogeswaran - Sri Lankan MP, Barrister Karikalan, writers Kee. Rajanarayanan and Sundara Ramasamy. In addition LTTE leader Prabhakaran, Anton Balasingam, BabySubramanian, journalist Anita Pratap and others enquired with great interest.
In Delhi, Supreme Court, Senior Advocate Garg represented and later the petition was withdrawned. In this issue every action was taken with great expectation and zeal. Senior Advocate Mr. Govinda Swaminathan told Mr. Vanamalai that the interim stay order was a milestone in the history of the judiciary.
After the interim stay order I filed a deatailed P I L petition in the High Court. The affidavit contained:
1. Death sentence can be given only in the rarest of rare cases.
2. Value of social decency should be valued in giving mercy.
3. Death sentence should be given only in cases where the life sentence is not adequate at all.
4. The judgment of Supreme Court Justice Chinnappa Reddy was compared where in the death sentence was commuted to life sentence after the prisoner stayed longer in the prison with dagger hanging over his head.
Certificates of good conduct given on Gurusamy by the 150 Palayamkottai co-prison inmates and jailors were attached with the petition.
Amidst all these commotion Gurusamy stayed calm with lots of pain and patience. Finally the long waited hearing came on petitions filed. After the final hearing was over the Justices V. Ramasamy and David Annusamy read their judgment: “When the professional killers are pardoned, saving the freedom fighter’s heir from the gallows is justified in all account. We dismiss the death sentence and commute it to life sentence”
In their judgment they cited the Supreme Court judgment of the poison injection case, T.V. Vaitheeswaran vs. Tamil Nadu Govt. (AIR 1983, SC 361). Where in the judgment says, if it takes more than two years waiting before the execution per section 21 of the constitution, the wait is more than enough for the prisoner in death sentence. Judgment of the Supreme Court case Sher Singh vs. Punjab (AIR 1983, SC 465) Sunil Batra case (AIR 1978, SC 1675) also cited. In this, if there was a longer waiting before the execution, that pain of waiting is a very important point that should be considered on deciding whether to execute or not. Also in Bachan Singh vs. Punjab case (AIR 1980 SC 898) and also Machchi Singh vs. State of Punjab (AIR 1983 SC 957) the judgment were, “More than two years of waiting in the gallows is more than enough to commute the death sentence. Death sentence should be given in the rarest of rare cases only.”
Above cited judgments were advantageous to Gurusamy and he got the liberation from hanging. Seven years struggle to save the life of Gurusamy did not go in vain. Gurusamy became a convict warder in his life sentence. After his release he went to his village near Ottapitaram to stay with his family and passed away ten years back
Had Gurusamy been hanged to death, he too would have gone to the cemetery looking for his ancestors. Because, in Indian judicial history, this was the first time that a person who got three times the death sentence and got saved.
Gurusamy the heir of Veerapandia Kattabomman did not face the same kind of death by hanging. In the past, Justice V. Krishna Iyer saved his communist colleague C.A Balan from the gallows. V. Krishna Iyer as a Justice in the Supreme Court saved Etica Annamma a young girl from death sentence. Mr. Kalyanasundaram the senior leader of CPI petitioned the President V.V. Giri for the Marxist, Kalya Perumal with thousands of signatures and saved him with the help of the then Chief Minister Dr. Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi. In 1997 two youth of Andhra were sentenced to death in the bus robbery and murder case. On behalf of them Assamese writer Mayee Swetha Devi petitioned President. K.R. Narayanan for mercy. Also he fought the case in the court and got the sentence commuted to life. One Mr. Mahali Nadar was saved by advocate P.H. Pandian citing Gurusamy’s case.
In 1983 one Mr. Sattu alias Chandru was hanged to death in Vellore prison in Tamil Nadu even with all these past history. At that time Eelam issue was the hot topic and the above news did not come to the limelight at all. Auto Sankar was hanged to death. In 2004 Dananjai Chatterji was hanged to death in the rape and murder case in Allipore, West Bengal. When you look at the crimes committed by auto Sankar and Chatterji, Perrarivalan is an indirect criminal in the eyes of the law. He was arrested when he was only 19 years old and spent his youth in the prison. This also has to be taken into account in his case. In the following ways. The rope hanging around the heads of Perrarivalan, Santhan and Murugan can be torn into pieces in following ways.
1. Again a mercy petition can be given to the President like in Gurusamy’s case.
2. A case can be filed in the High Court on behalf of them who have spent 20 years in waiting, citing the above Gurusamy case.
3. Per section 161 a mercy petition can be filed with State Government.
Will the letter wrote by the congress party president Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to the then President K.R. Narayanan be advantageous at present? Power circle has to answer this question. People and humanitarians are rising their voices for them. With their voices if they get benefited , the future generations will be happy to go through the pages of history.