NEW DELHI: The Centre on Friday turned down the proposal of Tamil Nadu government for release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and told the Supreme Court that setting them free would set a very wrong precedent.
The apex court had in January asked the Centre to take a call on the proposal submitted by Tamil Nadu government in 2016. Placing the government’s decision before a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, additional solicitor general Pinky Anand and advocate Rajesh Ranjan told the court that Centre did not agree with the Tamil Nadu government's proposal.
With the Supreme Court ruling that the state government can not remit sentence of any convict in cases probed by a central agency, Centre’s approval is mandatory for releasing the killers of Rajiv Gandhi as the case was probed by the CBI.
“The central government, in pursuance of section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, does not concur with the proposal of Tamil Nadu government contained in the communication letter dated March 2, 2016 for grant of further remission of sentence of these seven convicts,” the government said in its reply.
The seven convicts are V Sriharan @Murgan, T Suthendreraja @Santhan, A G Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Ravichandran and Nalini. All convicts are lodged in the Central Prison, Vellore, and are in incarceration since 1991.
Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan were awarded death sentence by a TADA court which was upheld by the Supreme Court. But the apex court on February 18, 2014 had commuted their death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of 11 years delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre. A day after the apex court order, the Tamil Nadu government decided to remit their sentences along with that of Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran to pave the way for their release from jail.
The Centre said in its reply that the convicts did not deserve any leniency as they committed an act of exceptional depravity and it was an “unparalleled act in the annals of crimes committed in the country”. “The case involves the assassination of a former Prime Minister who was brutally killed in pursuance of diabolical plot carefully conceived and executed by a highly organised foreign terrorist organisation ... the brutal act brought the Indian democratic process to a grinding halt in as much as the general election to the Lok Sabha and assemblies in some states had to be postponed,” it said.