To stop Rajiv Gandhi killers’ release, Centre moves Supreme Court
NEW DELHI : The Centre has moved Supreme Court asking it to reconsider its order sparing three men convicted of killing former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi from execution and to stop Tamil Nadu from freeing seven convicts in the case.
On Wednesday, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had given the Centre three days to respond to her decision to free the convicts, after which, she said, she would use her powers to do so.The Centre’s lawyer, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, told the Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam that Tamil Nadu can’t decide on releasing the convicts unilaterally since Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was investigated by a central agency, CBI, under a central law, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act or TADA.
The Centre’s petition came after Rajiv Gandhi’s son Rahul, the Congress vice president, said yesterday that he was saddened by the decision to free his father’s killers. “I am personally against death penalty. But if a Prime Minister’s killers are being set free, what justice can the common man expect?” he said.
Soon after, the ruling party condemned the Jayalalithaa government’s decision as “perverse, irresponsible and populist.”Top government sources told NDTV that there is “no question of letting off the assassins of a Prime Minister”, and that Tamil Nadu faulted on due process by unilaterally announcing it.
The Supreme Court had on Tuesday left it to the state to decide on freeing the convicts after sparing three of them, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, from execution citing the 11-year delay in a decision on their mercy plea. The convicts have been in jail for 23 years.
Murugan’s wife Nalini Sriharan was granted mercy in 2000 on the intervention of Rajiv Gandhi’s widow, Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The couple’s daughter Harithra Sriharan, a bio-medicine student in London, has pleaded with Rahul Gandhi to forgive her parents.
Ahead of the national election, due by May, any decision on the convicts is bound to have a political impact in a state where a majority is seen to be pro-Lankan Tamil. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 by a woman operative of the Lankan Tamil separatist outfit LTTE, who greeted him with a bomb strapped to her chest during a rally in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.Over the years, all Tamil parties have campaigned for the convicts’ release.