The Congress party on Monday decided to file a fresh review plea in Supreme Court, challenging the release of convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The party had earlier termed the release as “unfortunate”. On November 11, the top court ordered the premature release of six convicts, including Nalini Sriharan, who had hosted the assassin, noting the Tamil Nadu government had recommended remission of their sentence.
Facing criticism from Congress, the Centre, too, moved to the apex court, seeking a review of its order for the premature release of six convicts.
The Centre said the order granting remission to the convicts was passed without affording it an adequate opportunity for hearing despite it being a necessary party to the case.
The government highlighted the alleged procedural lapse, saying the convicts seeking remission did not formally implead the Centre as a party which resulted in its non-participation in the case. “Thus absence of any assistance by the Union of India, due to procedural lapse of convicts/petitioners, while the present matter was being finally heard and decided has prevented this court from appreciating the crucial and important evidence in the matter, which if presented, would have assisted this court to arrive at a just and correct judgment in the matter,” it had said.
Besides Nalini, RP Ravichandran, Santhan, Murugan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar walked out of the jail following the Supreme Court order.
In its review plea, the central government had said certain facts were in its possession but could not be placed before the court to enable it to arrive at a correct judgment and to do complete justice in the “peculiar and shocking” facts and circumstances.
It said four out of the six convicts granted remission are Sri Lankans. “Granting remission to terrorist of foreign nation, who had been duly convicted in accordance with the law of land for gruesome offence of assassinating the former Prime Minister of the Country, is a matter which has international ramification and therefore falls squarely within the sovereign powers of the Union of India,” the review petition said.
It said, “In such a sensitive matter the assistance of Union of India was of paramount importance as the matter has huge repercussions on the public order, peace, tranquility and criminal justice system of the Country.” On November 11, the top court while ordering the release of the convicts had noted their conduct was satisfactory during incarceration and they had undertaken various studies.
The apex court said its earlier judgement in the case of AG Perarivalan, one of the convicts released earlier, was equally applicable in the matter of six others. Invoking its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution, the top court had on May 18 ordered the release of Perarivalan, who had served over 30 years in jail.
The Tamil Nadu government had earlier favoured the premature release of Nalini and Ravichandran, saying its 2018 advice for remission of their life sentence is binding upon the governor. Nalini, Santhan, Murugan, Perarivalan, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran were sentenced for life.
Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at an election rally.
In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhan and Nalini.
However, in 2014, it commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment along with those of Santhan and Murugan on grounds of delay in deciding their mercy petitions.
Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2001 on the consideration that she has a daughter.
(with inputs from PTI)
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