Chennai: President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected the mercy petition of four associates of the late forest brigand Veerappan who were on the death row, civil rights activists said Wednesday.
S. Balamurugan of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and V.P. Gunasekaran said the family members of the four convicts had since called on them at the Belgaum prison in Karnataka.
Speaking to IANS over telephone from Coimbatore, Balamurugan and Gunasekaran identified the four as Simon, Gnanaprakash, Madaiah and Bilavandra.
Accused of killing 22 people with landmines when Veerappan virtually controlled a large forest tract on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border, the Supreme Court had sentenced them to death Jan 29, 2004.
The home ministry had forwarded their mercy petitions to the president May 30, 2011.
According to official sources, President Mukherjee is said to have rejected the mercy plea Nov 17 last year.
"Today, the prison authorities informed the convicts that their mercy petition has been rejected," Balamurugan told IANS.
He said the family members too had been informed.
Gunasekaran, an executive member of the Tamil Nadu Tribal People's Association, said the families met the convicts in Belgaum in Karnataka Wednesday.
"The relatives have asked us to help them to try reverse the decision. We are looking at legal possibilities," he said.
But M. Paramasivam, son of Madaiah, one of the convicts, told IANS: "We received information (about the rejection of mercy pleas) only from the media".
Expressing concern at the rejection of the mercy petition, Henri Tiphagne, honorary national secretary of Human Rights Defenders Alert, in a plea to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, alleged that the four convicts had never met Veerappan and were implicated and detained in Belgaum jail.
Tiphagne said the convicts should not be hanged in secret and their families must be intimated beforehand.
He also said that before the death sentence was carried out, there should be sufficient time to allow the prisoners or civil society to intervene before the Supreme Court.
"The victims of violence on both the sides -- police and the general people -- should be compensated," Tiphagne IANS over telephone from Salem.
K. Muniswamy Veerappan Gounder, widely known as Veerappan, was killed in a gun battle by police in October 2004.