Pranab Mukherjee, India's president, has reportedly rejected the mercy petitions of four associates of a notorious forest brigand sentenced to death in a landmine blast case, local media have reported.

The President's refusal on Tuesday to commute their sentence to life comes just days after he rejected a mercy petition filed on behalf of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri man convicted for a role in the deadly Indian parliament attack in 2001.

"We have received information from reliable sources that the message has been sent to Belgaum jail authorities and apparently it has also been conveyed to the prisoners," S Balalmurugan, appearing for the accused, said on Wednesday.

The four accused, Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran, were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in January 2004 in connection with the killing of 21 policemen in a landmine blast in southern state of Karnataka in 1993.

They filed for mercy peitition in 2004.

They were member of a gang of Veerappan, a dreaded sandalwood smuggler, who was shot dead by the police in October 2004.

Death penalty

The President has now ordered the death penalty for seven convicts in the last seven months, more than any Indian President in the last 15 years, FirstPost website reported.

Afzal Guru's execution follows the hanging of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, last year.

Guru spent eight years on death row before he was executed and his hanging drew severe criticismfrom human rights activists across the country.

New York-based Human Right Watch (HRW) questioned the timing of the execution.

In a statement, HRW said that Guru's hanging "makes it more urgent for India to reinstate its previous informal moratorium on executions as a step towards abolishing the death penalty".

"Under Indian law, the death penalty is supposed to be carried out only in the "rarest of rare" cases," HRW said.

Five gunmen stormed the heavily guarded parliament complex in New Delhi on December 13, 2001 carrying grenades, guns and explosives, but security forces killed them before they could enter the lawmakers' chamber. Ten other people,
mostly security officers, were killed in the exchange of fire.

Indian national Guru was convicted for helping organise arms for the parliament attackers and a place for them to
stay. Guru had denied any involvement in the conspiracy.

Source: Agencies