A day after the Tamil Nadu government announced that it would free seven people convicted of killing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Supreme Court Thursday restrained the state from releasing three of the seven whose death sentences it had commuted to life imprisonment as it agreed to examine if the state had complied with procedure when it decided to remit their sentence.
Admitting a petition by the Centre, a bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam ordered the state government to “maintain status quo prevailing as on date” in respect of convicts Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan until March 6.
While issuing notices to the Tamil Nadu government and the three convicts, the bench turned down Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran’s plea to also stay the state’s decision to free the other four convicts in the case.
It said the court’s verdict Tuesday on commuting the death sentence was passed on petitions by only the three men and hence no orders could be passed for the other four.
The court also said that the Centre was “justified” in approaching it since every state was expected to follow the procedure laid down in the code of criminal procedure and in case of a failure, the court can examine the dispute.
Later in the day, the Centre also filed a review petition against the verdict that had commuted the trio’s death penalty to life term on the ground of inordinate and inexplicable delay in deciding their mercy petitions.
The court order came as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned Tamil Nadu’s decision, terming it as “legally untenable” and “contrary to all principles of justice.” Singh added that no government or political party should have double standards when it comes to fighting terrorists.
A day after Jayalalithaa’s cabinet announced its decision to release the seven convicts and sent a resolution to the Centre, Parasaran showed up before the bench and sought an urgent hearing to restrain the state from taking any steps for releasing the convicts.
He said the convicts were held guilty under various laws upon which power of the union extended and hence the “appropriate government”, as stipulated under the CrPC, was the Centre and not the state for deciding on remission.
The court responded: “Various judgements of this court have clarified that it is not automatic remission or release (after serving 14 years in jail). Authorities have to give special reasons. We appreciate