New Delhi, Feb 27 :
The Supreme Court Thursday blocked the release of the remaining four convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, and said it will lay down the procedure for granting remission to prisoners undergoing life term on the commutation of their death sentences.
The release of three key conspirators in the Rajiv assassination case was earlier suspended by the apex court Feb 20.
The four convicts in the Rajiv assassination case whose proposed release by the Tamil Nadu government was blocked Thursday are Jayakumar, Robert Payas, P. Ravichandran and S. Nalini.
“Our anxiety is not that the state is going to release them or not, but every state must be aware of the rule and procedure. We will lay down the proper procedure,” said the bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivan, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice N.V. Ramana.
The central government’s plea seeking the quashing of the proposed decision of the Tamil Nadu government will come up for hearing March 6.
Further clarifying the position, Chief Justice Sathasivam said: “Our intention is not to stop their release. We want to lay down the principles that all states should follow.”
The court’s order of status quo came on a plea by the central government which sought the quashing of the Feb 19 letter of Tamil Nadu which proposed the release of the seven convicts.
“We are responsible for this decision (commuting death sentence to life imprisonment). We will solve the problem in a week’s time,” Chief Justice Sathasivam said.
In an indication that Tamil Nadu jumped the gun in arriving at the decision for the grant of remission, the chief justice said: “First an application has to be made by a prisoner seeking remission of sentence, then it goes to an appropriate court before a decision is taken by the government.”
At the outset of the hearing, Tamil Nadu opposed the maintainability of the centre’s plea for quashing the state government’s letter giving the union government three days to take a call on its decision to release the convicts.
Opposing the centre’ petition, counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, asked the court why was the centre rushing to move the court. “If we wanted, we could have released them.”
To this, Chief Justice Sathasivam replied: “Whether the central government is rushing or you yourself… In the letter, you gave them three days to decide.”
The court said that on March 6, it would first hear Tamil Nadu’s objection on the maintainability of the centre’s plea.
On Feb 19, a day after the death sentence of V. Sriharan alias Murugan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu was commuted, Tamil Nadu communicated to the centre its proposed decision to release all seven convicts in the Rajiv assassination case.
Rajiv Gandhi was killed in an attack by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from Sri Lanka May 21, 1991, in Sriperumbudur near Chennai.
The court also issued notice on the plea of convict P. Ravichandran that his application for remission has not been decided so far.