State Government Has No Power to Commute Sentence of Convicts of Rajiv Gandhi Assassination: Supreme Court

The hon’ble Apex Court today ruled that the three convicts liable for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi will have to be detained in the jail itself. The Court was rendering its decision for the reason that the Tamil Nadu Government had decided to release the three convicts from jail. The Court further said that for the time being they will remain in jail and later the case will be dealt by three judge bench. The Court also pointed out that the States are not empowered to remit sentence of the convicts.

The Court further stated that the Government of Tamil Nadu does not have the unilateral authority to remit sentence of the convicts who are liable for heinous crimes. The state governments have to consult the Central Government before arriving at such a decision. Where the case was investigated by an agency at the centre, the state government have to compulsorily consult the centre. It was further observed that the a three judge bench will reach a final decision regarding the order passed by the Government of Tami Nadu for releasing the convicts who are now in Tamil Nadu jail for assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The Court also made it clear that life sentence means life for serious crimes like robbery, murder, rape etc.

On 20th February 2014, the Apex Court had stayed the release of Murugan, Arivu and Santhan who are the three convicts. Their death sentence was commuted before two days to life imprisonment. Later four other convicts were also decided to be released by the Government of Tami Nadu which was also stayed by the Supreme Court. The Court found procedural errors in handling the case by the state government. At present Murugan, Santhan and Arivu are imprisoned in Vellore Central Prison. Others are undergoing life imprisonment. These people were convicted for assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on May 21st 1991.

Adv. Jewel Panicker