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Rejected TN govt's 2016 decision to release Rajiv case convicts: Centre informs HC

The Centre on Tuesday informed the Madras High Court it has two years ago rejected a Tamil Nadu government's proposal of March, 2016 for release of all seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case as it would set a "dangerous precedent".

Rejected TN govts 2016 decision to release Rajiv case convicts: Centre informs HC


Noting that the CBI, which probed the case, had also opposed the proposal, the Centre in its April 18, 2018 letter to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary had said in pursuance of section 435 of CrPC it do not concur to the proposal for grant of further remission of sentence to the seven convicts.

Release of the four foreign nationals who had committed the gruesome killing of a former prime minister along with 15 others in connivance with three Indians will set a "dangerous precedent and lead to international ramifications by other such criminals in the future," the Union Home Ministry had said in the letter.

Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan submitted a copy of the letter to a bench of Justice R Subbaiah and Justice R Pongiappan during the hearing of a petition by Nalini Sriharan, one of the seven convicts, claiming that she was illegally detained in Vellore Prison as the state cabinet has recommended the release of her and others.

Taking note of the letter, the bench impleaded the Union Home Secretary as a respondent and directed the official to file a counter affidavit by January 28 and adjourned the matter till then.

The convicts are V Sriharan, T Suthendraraja, Jayakumar Robert Payas (all Sri Lankans), A G Perarivalan, Ravichandran and Nalini.

All the seven were convicted by a special TADA court for their role in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 during an election rally at Sriperumbudur near here and sentenced to death but later it was commuted to life imprisonment.

The Union Home Ministry's communication was in response to a March 2, 2016 letter by the state government conveying its decision to remit the sentences of life imprisonment and to release the seven convicts since all of them have already served imprisonment for 24 years.

The state government had sought the views of the Centre under CrPC section 435 on its decision, recalling that the then union government had gone to the Supreme Court after the state decided in February, 2014 to grant remission to the convicts.

The Home Ministry's letter said the trial court had given cogent reasons such as the diabolical conspiracy, the use of female human bomb and a number of lives lost in the incident among others to justify the death penalty awarded to the accused.

Later hearing an appeal, all three judges of the Supreme Court had highlighted the conspiracy and the horrific nature of the crime and held that the case fell under the category of rarest of rare cases (warranting death penalty), it said.

The apex court had also held the assassination of the former prime minister was an act of exceptional depravity on the part of the accused and an unparalleled act in the annals of crimes committed in the country.

The CBI has also opposed the state government's proposal to release the convicts, citing interest of justice.

"Therefore, the central government in pursuance of section 435 of CrPC do not concur to the proposal of the government of Tamil Nadu... for grant of further remission of sentence to these seven convicts," the letter said.

Nalini in her petition filed last year has contended she was illegally detained in the Vellore Prison from September 10, 2018 since the Tamil Nadu Governor has not acted on the cabinet decision of September 9, 2018 to release her under Article 161 of the Constitution.

Citing a Supreme Court judgement, she claimed the governor had no discretion but to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers under Art 161 as it was binding. 

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