The Tamil Nadu government has issued a letter seeking the centre's views on its decision to release all the seven members convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The State government said that it has decided to remit the sentences of life imprisonment and to release the seven, since all have already served prison terms of 24 years and the government has received petitions from them to release them considering the years they have already spent in jail.
The move comes after an earlier proposal by the state to release these prisoners was opposed by the Central government. This prompted the Supreme Court in December 2, 2015 to durect the State not to remit the life term without the approval of the Centre.
In a letter sent by Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan, to Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs Rajiv Mehrishi, the state government said, "We would like to clarify that this communication is being sent to you without prejudice to our right to move the Supreme Court to review its judgement dated December 2, 2015, wherein the Constitution Bench had taken the view that the word 'consultation' used in Section 435 of Cr.P.C means 'concurrence'," adding that the letter is also without prejudice to the State's rights and contentions in the writ petition.
The State government added that four of the seven persons, namely V Sriharan or Murugan, T Suthendraraja or Santhan, Jayakumar and Robert Payas are foreigners, that is Sri Lankan nationals. The others are A G Perarivalan or Arivu, Ravichandran and Nalini.
It may be noted that the State government in February 2014 has made an announcement to release the seven persons, following a directive of the Supreme Court commuting the death sentence of the three assassins of Rajiv Gandhi to life imprisonment, holding that the 11-year long delay in deciding their mercy petition had a dehumanising effect on them. The Supreme Court, in an order issued on February 18, 2014, commuted the death sentence imposed on Sriharan, Suthendraraja and Perarivalan.
The attempt of State government to consult the Central Government seeking its views within three days. However, the centre approached the Supreme Court against the State government's decision and a bench of three judges was formed and the bench raised seven constitutional/legal questions for the consideration of a five Judges Bench.
The questions framed in the referral order of Supreme Court of India were answered in its order dated December 2, 2015, said the State government. The writ petition of centre was directed to be posted before a three Judges Bench of the Supreme Court for hearing. The writ petition is yet to be listed before the three Judges Bench for hearing, said the State government's letter.
The Constitution Bench, according to previous reports, has criticised the State government commenting that the State government cannot be allowed to exercise its power of remission considering that the case was investigated by central agencies including the Central Bureau of Investigation and the offences were relating to execution power of the Union. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and 14 others were killed on May 21, 1991 when a suicide bomber blew herself up after touching his feet at an election campaign rally (prior to the parliamentary elections), in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai.