Verdict seals fate of Rajiv assassination case convicts

Verdict seals fate of Rajiv assassination case convicts

The Supreme Court’s judgment on Wednesday in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case virtually sealed the fate of seven convicts, who were proposed to be set free by the Jayalalitha government in Tamil Nadu last year.

The majority verdict authored by Justice F M I Kalifullah and ratified by CJI Justice H L Dattu and Justice P C Ghose held that the Centre and not state government would have the “primacy” in deciding whether remission should be granted to the life-term convicts in cases investigated by the CBI or a central agency.

The court held that the word “consultation” in Section 435 of the CrPC actually meant “concurrence”.

It said consultation with the Centre in heinous cases should not be an “empty formality” as the national interest is at stake.

“When it comes to the question of national interest or any other emergent or unforeseen situations warranting control in the nature of a super-terrestrial order (celestial), the Executive Power of the Union can be exercised like a bull in the China shop,” the bench said.

In the instant case, the Union government filed a writ petition maintaining that no further mercy could be shown to the convicts in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

The apex court had on February 20, 2014, stayed the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release the convicts—Murugan, Santhan and Arivu—just after two days of the verdict commuting their death sentences to life term.

Subsequently, noting procedural lapse, the court also stayed release of four other convicts: Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran in the case.
The convicts had remained in jail for about 23 years.

The five-judge bench referred the matter concerning the seven convicts to a three-judge bench, which would only deal with factual aspects.

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