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SC notice on plea against Centre’s nod for sentence remission


New Delhi, July 25 :

The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to the cental government on a plea by a Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict challenging the legal provision mandating the state government to take the Centre’s prior consent before remitting the sentence of a convict whose offence was investigated and prosecuted by the CBI.

Supreme CourtA bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman issued notice on the plea of S. Nalini Srikaran, who is undergoing life imprisonment, challenging section 435 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure which says that the state government could not remit sentence without the central government’s consent for offences investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Nalini’s grouse is rooted in the central government blocking the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release seven convicts in the 1991 assassination of the former prime minister by granting remission of sentence after the apex court Feb 18 commuted the death sentence of three conspirators into life imprisonment.

The apex court had commuted the death sentence of V. Sriharan alias Murugan, A.G. Perarivlan alias Arivu and T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, holding that the 11-year long delay in deciding their mercy petition had a dehumanising effect on them.

The day after the apex court commuted the death sentence of the three, the Tamil Nadu government decided to grant remission of sentence to all the seven convicts and gave the central government a three-day time to take a call.

This was challenged by the central government before the apex court and a three judge bench referred the matter to the constitution bench which is seized of the matter.

Nalini, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by Tamil Nadu governor April 24, 2000, has already spent 23 years in jail. She was sentenced to death Jan 28, 1998.

Describing section 435(1) as discriminatory and unconstitutional, Nalini in her petition has contended that “Though 2,200 life convicts who had put in less than 10 years of imprisonment were prematurely released by the Tamil Nadu government during the last about 15 years, she was excluded from consideration for premature release only on the ground that her offence was investigated by the CBI ie her case was covered by section 435(1)(a) CrPC. The said section is unconstitutional”.