The Supreme Court Thursday stayed the release of four convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case while asking the Tamil Nadu government if it was in a rush to release them.
The court had last week stayed the release of the other three out of the seven convicts, noting no order for all of them could be passed straightaway since only three of them were petitioners before it. This had compelled the Centre to move a substantive writ petition, challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s resolution to set all of them free.
Issuing notices to the state government and the convicts, a Bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam ordered status quo and fixed March 6 for a hearing to decide the legal issue as to whether the Centre or the Tamil Nadu government was the “appropriate government” to take final call on release of convicts. The Tamil Nadu government’s counsel forcefully opposed the Centre’s petition, saying they wished to earn “brownie points” by filing a plea of such a nature when there was no question of violation of anybody’s fundamental rights. “Why did they (Centre) rush to the court instead of replying to our letter? They could have said in it whatever they wished,” said the counsel. To this, the Bench said: “Is the Centre rushing or you are rushing?”
The court added that it will consider the issue of maintainability of the Centre’s petition first. It further observed: “Our intention is not to release these persons but to lay down some guidelines that every state should follow.” The Centre’s petition has challenged the Tamil Nadu government’s resolution to remit the remaining jail terms of all the seven convicts and the communication sent to the MHA for consultation.
It contended that the “appropriate government,” as stipulated under the Code of Criminal Procedure, was the central government in this case and hence it had the sole power of remission of sentence. The government has already filed a review petition against the court’s decision of commuting the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. It has claimed that the court order was “patently illegal” and filed without any jurisdiction.