SC reserves verdict on Rajiv case convicts

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on constitutional issues arising out of the Tamil Nadu government's decision to set free the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, including the power of states to remit sentences.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu would authoritatively deal with questions referred to it while staying the state government's decision to set free seven convicts in the case.

The bench, also comprising justices FMI Kalifulla, Pinaki Chandra Ghosh, Abhay Manohar Sapre and UU Lalit, heard for eleven days the arguments advanced by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for the Centre, and others including senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and Rakesh Dwivedi, representing V Sriharan alias Murugan, one of the seven convicts, and the Tamil Nadu government, respectively.

The court would decide whether state governments also have power of remission in cases investigated by central agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Among others, the bench would also determine if the sentence of a prisoner, whose death penalty has been commuted to life, can be remitted by the government and if life imprisonment meant jail term for the rest of the life or a convict has a right to claim
remission.

The Constitution bench would also settle the issue if a special category of sentence could be provided for cases where death penalty might be substituted by imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term in excess of 14 years and to put that category beyond application of remission.

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