Restraining the Tamil Nadu government from releasing seven prisoners who were convicted for assasinating former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the apex court on Thursday directed the state to maintain status quo on the issue.
There have been procedural lapses by the TN govt in its decision to release seven convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the bench observed.
Though the government has power to remit sentence, it has to follow the laid down procedure, the court said.
The court issued notice to Tamil Nadu government asking it to file reply within two weeks and posteds the case for hearing on March 6.
The seven convicts were also issued notice.
Seeking a stay on Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release all seven convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the Centre on Thursday moved the Supreme Court which agreed to give an urgent hearing.
Appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran pleaded for a stay saying the state government should not be allowed to release the prisoners till the apex court decided its review petition challenging commutation of death sentence of three condemned prisoners to life imprisonment on ground of delay in deciding mercy petitions.
The bench, after a brief hearing, agreed to hear the case at length and posted it at 12.40 pm.
The Jayalalithaa government had on Wednesday decided to set free all seven convicts in the assassination case after the apex court had commuted the death penalty of three of them to life imprisonment.
Besides Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, who earned a major reprieve on February 18 from the apex court which spared them from gallows, Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran are the other four convicts whose release was decided by the Tamil Nadu government.
Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan are currently lodged in the Central Prison, Vellore, in Tamil Nadu and they are in incarceration since 1991.
Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, are undergoing life sentence for their role in the assassination of Gandhi on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur.
The Tamil Nadu government has set a three-day deadline for itself and also to the Centre over the release of the seven convicts.
The Supreme Court had commuted the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan (both Sri Lankan Tamils) and A G Perarivalan on the ground of 11 years delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.
It had also rejected the Centre’s submission that there was no unreasonable delay in deciding their mercy plea and the condemned prisoners did not go through agonising experience as they were enjoying life behind the bars.
Gandhi’s assassins were convicted by a TADA court in January 1998 and were awarded death sentence, which was confirmed by the apex court May 11, 1999.
PMO’s press statement
The Government is moving a review petition in the Supreme Court on fundamental issues of law arising from the assassination of the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi.
We have also informed the Tamil Nadu Government that their proposed course of action to release the killers of Shri Rajiv Gandhi is not legally tenable and should not be proceeded with.
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. No government or party should be soft in our fight against terrorism. (The Hindu)