SC stays TN decision on Rajiv killers

SC stays TN decision on Rajiv killers

The Tamil Nadu government’s attempt to release seven convicts involved in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was dashed by the Supreme Court on Thursday which expressed the need to look into “procedural lapses” on the part of the state before setting them free.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha said in the Assembly on Wednesday that she has set a three-day deadline for the Centre to respond to the state’s decision to let go the convicts, languishing in Chennai’s Vellore prison.

The trigger for making political points was the apex court’s Tuesday judgment commuting death sentences of Murugan, Santhan and Arivu to life. A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam and justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana accepted a separate application filed by the Centre to incorporate four other convicts in this case as well since the original petition had named only three.

The bench wanted to know from the Tamil Nadu government how state authorities can claim to have exhausted procedures to release jail inmates a day after the apex court converted three prisoners’  capital punishment into life owing to a long delay in deciding their fate.

“The commutation of death sentence into life cannot automatically lead to their release... Our judgment was pronounced on Tuesday morning and it was available at 5 pm and the newspaper reports came out only on Wednesday,” the bench observed.
 
Questioning the AIADMK government for ignoring legal procedures, the bench gave contours for release of the convicts that needs to be fulfilled.

“There are several procedural steps required to be followed and an application has to be filed before a presiding judge of a competent court for remitting sentence which was not done,” the judges said.

Asking the Centre and the state to maintain status quo, the bench said, “Issue notice to the State of Tamil Nadu, Inspector General of Prisons, Chennai, the Superintendent of Central Prison, Vellore and the convicts viz. V Sriharan @ Murugan, T Suthendraraja @ Santhan and A G Perarivalan @ Arivu returnable on March 6, 2014.”

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