On a petition filed by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case life convict S.Nalini, challenging the constitutionality of a CrPC Section which requires the states to hold consultations with the Centre on the premature release of prisoners whose cases are handled by Central agencies, the Madras High Court on Monday ordered notice to the central government.
The first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose posted the plea after four weeks for further hearing.
Nalini’s petition was in the wake of a Tamil Nadu government order, which introduced a scheme for premature release of life convicts under Article 161 (Power of governor to grant pardons, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases) of the Constitution.
Her petition challenged the constitutionality of CrPc Section 435 (1) (a) that mandates the state government to consult the central government to remit or commute a sentence in any cases where the sentence is for an offence, which was investigated by the Delhi Special Police Establishment, constituted under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, or by any other agency empowered to make investigation into an offence under any central Act. Nalini, 50, is ineligible for the premature release scheme as her case was investigated by CBI.
Arguing that all convicts, after they are confined in prison are required to be treated equally, Nalini’s petition said: “When the object of premature release is reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners, and when the convicts are released only on the basis of good conduct in prison, which can be assessed only by the respective state government, the law, mandating the state to consult the Centre, would be irrational.”
Nalini’s petition also argued that the state had not applied its mind that the provision Section 435 would apply only when the government exercises its powers under sections 432 (Power to suspend or remit sentences) and 433 (Power to commute sentence) of the CrPC.
Meanwhile, on January 23, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to take a decision on a 2016 letter by Tamil Nadu government seeking its concurrence on releasing seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, which includes Nalini. The letter, dated March 2, 2016, said while the state government has already decided to release the seven convicts, it is necessary to seek the Centre’s concurrence as per an apex court order of 2015. The case is expected to come up for the next hearing in the second or third week of March in Supreme Court as the Centre is given three months time to reply.