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Supreme Court stays release of 3 Rajiv killers

Our Bureau Agencies New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on February 20, 2014

Legal battle Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Union Home MinisterSushilkumar Shinde in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. PTI

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Cites procedural lapses while reiterating power of govt to remit sentences

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the release by the Tamil Nadu Government of three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, saying there have been procedural lapses on the part of the State.

Earlier in the day, the Centre had moved the apex court, seeking a stay on the release.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam directed the State Government to maintain status quo regarding three prisoners whose death sentence was commuted to life term by it.

It further said the Centre can file a fresh petition regarding the other four prisoners whose sentence has also been remitted.

It said all procedural checks laid down in the law have not been followed by the State Government and it will examine the issue raised by the Centre.

The court stayed the release of convicts Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan. Making it clear that it is not taking away the power of the Government to remit sentences, the bench, at the same time, said States have to follow the procedure.

“We are concerned about the procedural lapses and we will examine the issue,” the bench said, adding that “all States are bound to follow the procedure”.

The bench issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu Government, which strongly opposed the Centre’s plea, and directed it to file its response within two weeks.

“We are not underestimating the power of the State Government but we are examining the procedure followed by it,” the bench said when the State Government pleaded to the court not to pass any order on staying the release of the prisoners.

‘Not legally tenable’

The bench also said the commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment cannot automatically result in remission of the sentence.

The apex court also issued notice to the convicts, asking them to file their response within two weeks.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement the release of his killers will be “contrary to all principles of justice” and the TN Government has been told not to proceed with it as it is “not legally tenable”.

‘Attack on soul of India’

“The assassination of 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 statement said.

He further said no government or party should be soft in the fight against terrorism, an apparent reference to the AIADMK Government.

BJP’s ‘silence’ questioned

The Congress hit out at the BJP for remaining silent on the TN Government’s decision.

“Today, I ask why is Narendra Modi quiet on this issue? The sad reality is that some political parties have always remained silent on this issue, which sends out a wrong message,” said Law Minister Kapil Sibal.

“In some States, fake encounters are taking place in the name of terrorism while in other states, terrorists are being freed. This is wrong,” he added.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari too asked parties to rise above petty politics.

Meanwhile, the BJP said that it sympathises with the Congress on the issue but the party should have decided on the mercy petitions of the accused while it could. “Why did the Government sit on their mercy petition? Why couldn’t they take a decision?” asked BJP Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Clashes in Parliament

The issue move generated heat in the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, with Congress and AIADMK members clashing with each other.

The uproar started with AIADMK members in the Lok Sabha storming the Well after Congress member Sanjay Nirupam charged Jayalalithaa with playing politics and deciding to release all the seven convicts when the Supreme Court had spoken of only three.

“What the Tamil Nadu government has done is complete injustice,” Nirupam said, prompting AIADMK members to troop into the Well and indulging in heated exchanges with the treasury benches and raising slogans.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi was present in the House.

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Published on February 20, 2014
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