4:29 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Supreme Court detain release of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins

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New Delhi -Acting on a petition filed by the Centre, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed a decision by the Tamil Nadu government to release all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran had pleaded for a stay, arguing that the Tamil Nadu government should not be allowed to release the prisoners till the apex court decided its review petition challenging commutation of death sentencen ground of delay in deciding mercy petitions.

Acting on the petition, the court issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government restraining it from releasing the convicts and directed it to maintain status quo till further orders.

The Centre had hurriedly moved the court after it was caught unaware by the sudden decision of the Jayalalithaa government to release them within the next three days – a political master stroke ahead of the Lok Sabha polls .

What added to the sense of urgency was Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s open expression of unhappiness on the possibility of the assassins of his father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi walking free.

In his first remarks on the issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “The assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi was an attack on the soul of India.”

“The Tamil Nadu’s government’s proposed course of action to release the killers of Shri Rajiv Gandhi is not legally tenable and should not be proceeded with,” he said.

The seven convicts who are set to be released are V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar (Sri Lankans) and AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, Nalini and Ravichandran (Indians).

All seven are in prison since 1991, the year a woman Tamil Tiger suicide bomber Dhanu blew up Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai.

The development came a day after the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence awarded to Murugan, Perarivalan and Santhan citing the inordinate delay in deciding their mercy petitions.

Experts said, while the law mandates that the state government should consult the Centre in cases like that of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, it also says that the state government is not bound to take a decision only with the concurrence of the Centre.

The Centre is expected to argue its case on the basis that commutation of death sentence does not mean automatic entitlement for release, the decision by TN government seems to have been guided by political considerations and, most importantly, whether killers of a prime minister can be allowed to walk free, even when they have been spared the gallows.

An emotional Rahul Gandhi, yesterday, said, “If someone who kills a prime minister is released, how will the common man get justice?”

“The prime minister gave up his life… (but the) prime minister does not get justice,” he said.

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