Former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s killers will stay in jail and cannot be freed by Tamil Nadu without consulting the central government, constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu, of the Supreme Court said in a historic verdict on Wednesday.
The court is hearing the Centre’s petition against the Jayalalithaa government’s decision to release seven people convicted for the former prime minister’s assassination in 1991.
Tamil Nadu is not empowered to release the convicts on its own and it has to consult the Centre as the case was being probed by Central Bureau of Investigation, said the SC.
The case reached the SC after the Centre objected to Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release V Sriharan alias Murugan, AG Perarivalan alias Arivu and T Suthendraraja alias Santhan after after commutation of their death sentence into life imprisonment on grounds of delay by the President in deciding their mercy petition. The SC in its February 18, 2014 order commuting their death sentence had said the 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petitions was unreasonable and de-humanising.
The SC later stayed the release of the other convicts, including Jayakumar, Nalini, Ravichandran and Robert Pious, saying that there were procedural lapses by the Tamil Nadu government.
Tamil Nadu government had in August argued that a convict in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, Gopal Vinayakram Godse, had been released in 1964 after being sentenced to a life term. Vinayakram Godse was the brother of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse.
Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber while campaigning in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur in May 1991.