Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: SC says TN govt can't release convicts

PTI
Published Dec 2, 2015, 2:34 pm IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 9:30 pm IST
Santhan, Murugan and Arivu are currently lodged in Central Prison of Vellore
Santhan, Murugan are currently lodged in Central Prison of Vellore
 Santhan, Murugan are currently lodged in Central Prison of Vellore

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the Tamil Nadu government cannot release Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's killers without consent from the Centre.

The court also said that states do not have suo motu power to grant remission to convicts under CrPC provisions.

 

Settling the constitutional issues that had arisen out of the Tamil Nadu government's decision to set free the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the apex court said that though the states have power to grant remission, they cannot exercise it suo motu.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, who is demitting office today, also said that the Centre will have primacy in granting remission to convicts in cases registered under central law and probed by central agencies like CBI.

The bench, which was unanimous in answering all the issues raised in the reference of a smaller bench, however, differed by 3:2 on the question as to whether courts can quantify the jail term in offences which prescribe life term as sentence. The majority said that courts have the power to do so.

 

The bench, also comprising justices F M I Kalifulla, Pinaki Chandra Ghosh, Abhay Manohar Sapre and U U Lalit, referred to a three-judge bench the factual and legal aspects of grant of remission to convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

The apex court had earlier said that it would be dealing with different issues framed by the smaller bench on the scope of executives' power of remission.

The apex court had on February 20, last year stayed the state government's decision to release three convicts -- Murugan, Santhan and Arivu, whose death sentence had been commuted to life term by it.

 

It had later also stayed the release of four other convicts -- Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, saying there were procedural lapses on part of the state government.

The Centre had earlier asserted that the killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did nor deserve any mercy as the assassination was the result of a conspiracy involving foreign nationals.

The Tamil Nadu government, on other had, had asserted the states have power to grant remission under the law and trashed accusations that its decision to release seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case was "political and arbitrary".

 

The state government had wanted to know as to why Congress governments at the centre delayed the decision on their mercy pleas that led to commutation of their death sentence in the first place.

Jethmalani, who had appeared for one of the convicts, had sought dismissal of Centre's plea, contending that the citizens could file writ petitions for enforcement of their fundamental rights and "Union of India is not a citizen but State under Article 12; it has no such rights vested in it". The apex court had on February 20 last year stayed the state government's decision to release three convicts - Murugan, Santhan and Arivu, whose death sentence had been commuted to life term by it two days before.

 

Santhan, Murugan and Arivu are currently lodged in the Central Prison, Vellore. The other four are also undergoing life sentence for their role in Gandhi's assassination on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

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