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Centre to SC: Review order freeing Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts… error, miscarriage of justice

In its review petition, the Centre said the “order was passed without affording” it an “adequate opportunity of hearing”, that the order suffers from “errors apparent on the face of record” and falls “foul of principles of natural justice”.

Rajiv Gandhi convicts Nalini Sriharan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas and Murugan after being released from Tamil Nadu's jail on Saturday (PTI)

Six days after the Supreme Court ordered the release of the remaining six convicts serving life terms for the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, the Centre Thursday moved the top court, seeking review of its order.

In its review petition, the Centre said the “order was passed without affording” it an “adequate opportunity of hearing”, that the order suffers from “errors apparent on the face of record” and falls “foul of principles of natural justice”.

On November 11, the Supreme Court set free the six convicts — Nalini Sriharan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, V Sriharan alias Murugan, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran alias Ravi, extending to them the benefit of its May 18 order releasing co-convict A G Perarivalan.

While the Congress described the Supreme Court order as “highly problematic”, “completely erroneous” and “totally unacceptable”, DMK leader and Chief Minister M K Stalin called the ruling “historic” as it “reinforces the cornerstone of democratic principles”.

The Centre, in its review petition, said the convicts who approached the court seeking remission had not made the Union of India a respondent in their plea “despite it being a necessary and proper party to the” issue.

“…from the record it appears that no application was ever filed by the petitioners formally impleading Union of India as party respondent. This procedural lapse on the part of the petitioners resulted in non-participation of Union of India in subsequent hearings of the case,” it said.

This in turn had resulted in the court being deprived of the “vital assistance” of the Centre “with crucial facts, going into the root of the matter, which would have apparently and ex-facie demonstrated the distinction between” the May 18 order granting remission to Perarivalan and the six accused, four of whom are Sri Lankan nationals.

The Centre said that “in such a sensitive matter the assistance of Union of India was of paramount importance as the matter has huge repercussions on the public order, peace, tranquility and criminal justice system of the country”.

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The review petition said the November 11 order “has been passed… by erroneously placing reliance on” the Perarivalan order and said that “in absence of any assistance by Union of India it could not be pointed out” that the May 18 order ‘in fact and in law, was not applicable to case of the remaining co-convicts as… as majority of the Appellants were foreign nationals and had a distinct and more serious role in comparison to” Perarivalan.

The Centre said that “granting remission to terrorist of foreign nation, who had been duly convicted in accordance with the law of land for gruesome offence of assassinating the former Prime Minister of the country, is a matter which has international ramification and therefore falls squarely within the sovereign powers of the Union of India”.

It said that “non presentation of such crucial facts, going into the root of the matter has resulted in patent and manifest errors apparent on the face of record creeping into the final judgment passed by this Hon’ble Court. Apart from that absence of UOI assistance to this Hon’ble court while adjudication of the present matter has resulted into admitted and glaring breach of principles of natural justice and has, in fact, resulted in miscarriage of justice”.

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It said “the Order dated 11.11.2022 not only suffers from errors apparent on the face of record but also falls foul of principles of natural justice, thus warranting its review”.

First published on: 17-11-2022 at 20:26 IST
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