Constitution bench to decide fate of Rajiv killers

Convicts to stay in jail till matter's disposed

Constitution bench to decide fate of Rajiv killers

The Supreme Court on Friday referred to a Constitution bench to adjudicate on whether the Centre or the Tamil Nadu government had the authority to release seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, noting the issue would have wider implication.

A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said a larger bench would pronounce “authoritative” ruling as the matter involved interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code. “All the issues raised in the given case are of utmost critical concern for the whole of the country, as the decision on these issues will determine the procedure for awarding sentences in the criminal justice system,” the bench also comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana said.

The court was dealing with a petition filed by the Centre challenging Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayaliltha’s decision to remit the remaining jail terms of the convicts.

“The issue of such a nature has been raised for the first time in this court, which has wide ramification in determining the scope of application of power of remission by the executives both the centre and the state,” the court added.

All the seven convicts, who were ordered to be released in February by Tamil Nadu government, however, would now remain in jail in consequence till the disposal of the matter by the Constitution bench, comprising not less than five judge. The state government’s decision had come in the wake of the apex court’s verdict commuting death sentence of convicts Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan to life term, after noting there was inexplicable delay in deciding their mercy petitions by the President.

In the instant case, the apex court framed seven issues to be determined by the larger bench and directed for placing the matter before it within three months.

The questions framed by the bench included whether further relief by remission of jail term could at all be given to convicts whose death sentences have been commuted to life term, either by the executive orders of the President or the Governor, or by a constitutional court.

Among others, the bench also wanted the Constitution bench to decide if a “special category” of sentence may be created for such commutation cases by fixing a jail term of more than 14 years, and then to put this category beyond power of remission by the central or state government.

The seven convicts in the case are in jail for over 23 years in the case relating to killing of former prime minister Gandhi in May 1991 at Sriperumbudur.

Relatives disappointed

The relatives of those convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination on Friday expressed their disappointment over the Supreme Court referring to a Constitutional Bench the release of those convicted in the case, DHNS reports from Chennai. Disappointed at the delay in the release of her son A G  Perarivalan convicted in the Rajiv assassination case, Arputhammal hoped the legal process would not take more than three months.

"I have been battling to get justice for more than 20 years. I have been expecting a favourable verdict from Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam. In fact, I have been making all arrangements to receive my son after his release from Vellore Jail. However,the court did not give the verdict which I expected," she told reporters.

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