5:21 pm - Friday July 19, 1811

Sad Rajiv Gandhi’s killers will walk free, but against death penalty :Rahul Gandhi

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Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said he was saddened after Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa announced that seven people convicted in his father Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case would be freed. He, however, said he was against the death penalty.

“What should the common man expect if a prime minister’s assassins are freed,” Rahul Gandhi said in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi.

All seven had been in prison since 1991, the year a woman Tamil Tiger suicide bomber blew up former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally near Chennai
Earlier on Wednesday, Jayalalithaa said the government had decided to release V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar (Sri Lankans) and AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, Nalini and Ravichandran (Indians).

Finance minister P Chidambaram said he could not say he was unhappy over the commutation of the death sentence of three convicts in the Rajiv assasination case, but there was irreparable grief over the brutal killing of Rajiv Gandhi.

“That grief will always remain. The Supreme Court has not declared them innocent. That’s the main point. If they walk free they will walk free 20-22 years. So that’s it. If that is the punishment the court felt they should suffer so be it. I do not have to say that I am happy or unhappy,” he said.

Chidambaram said as a legal proposition there is an issue with the reasoning of the Supreme Court that mere delay is enough to commute the death sentence.

He questioned the delay saying the mercy petition reached the government in 2000 when NDA was in office. They did not deal with it for nearly four years.  It was first taken up only in 2005 and was sent to the President, where it lay for five years.

“After I became the home minister, all the pending mercy petitions were returned and I had to deal with them one by one. Therefore, to say that mere delay means that the sentence can be commuted to life raises a serious question of law. I think we have to examine the correctness of that proposition.

“I am uncomfortable with the proposition that the mere delay alone is the reason. In a way it’s the delay, which has given them a lease of life. If there had been no delay, the whole question would not arise,” he said.

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