New Delhi: The central government challenged the decision of Tamil Nadu by moving to Supreme Court on the issue of releasing the assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Sources say the Centre will move a petition before the Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam, citing a legal requirement for Tamil Nadu to take the decision in concurrence with the central government since Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was investigated by a central agency, CBI, under a central law, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act or TADA.
The seven convicts who are set to be released are V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar (Sri Lankans) and AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, Nalini and Ravichandran (Indians). All these are in prison since 1991.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Wednesday gave the Centre three days to respond to her decision to free the convicts, after which, she said, she would use her powers to do so.
The Centre’s decision to move court came after Rajiv Gandhi’s son Rahul, the Congress vice president, expressed his unhappiness on the possibility of the assassins of his father walking free by stating that “I am personally against death penalty. But if a Prime Minister’s killers are being set free, what justice can the common man expect?”
Along with Rahul Ghandi, the congress party also followed with a strong statement condemning the Jayalalithaa government’s decision as “perverse, irresponsible and populist.” Top government sources stated to the media that there is “no question of letting off the assassins of a Prime Minister”.
The Supreme Court had on Tuesday left it to the state to decide on freeing the convicts after sparing three of them, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, from execution citing the 11-year delay in a decision on their mercy plea.
The Centre will argue its case on the basis that commutation of death sentence does not mean automatic entitlement for release, the decision by TN government seems to have been guided by political considerations and, most importantly, whether killers of a prime minister can be allowed to walk free, even when they have been spared the gallows
Ahead of the national election, due by May, any decision on these convicts is bound to have a political impact in a state where a majority is seen to be pro-Lankan Tamil.