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India

Centre Moves Supreme Court Over Release Of Rajiv Gandhi Case Convicts

Approaching the apex court, the Centre contended that the order was passed without hearing it. On November 11, the Supreme Court ordered the release of six convicts including Nalini Sriharan and RP Ravichandran, who were serving life imprisonment in connection with the assassination in the case.

Supreme Court
File Photo of The Supreme Court. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The Central government on Thursday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the November 11 order allowing the release of six convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Approaching the apex court, the Centre contended that the order was passed without hearing it. On November 11, the Supreme Court ordered the release of six convicts including Nalini Sriharan and RP Ravichandran, who were serving life imprisonment in connection with the assassination in the case.

A bench of BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna passed the order while taking into consideration the good conduct of convicts in the prison. The apex court had noted that they had been behind bars for a very long period. Seeking a review of the top court’s order, the Centre said, “The order granting remission to the convicts who had assassinated the former Prime Minister of the country was passed without affording an adequate opportunity of hearing to Union of India.”

It said that the Central government was not made a party in the case. “No application was ever filed by the petitioners formally impleading Union of India as party respondent. This procedural lapse on the part of the petitioners resulted in non-participation of Union of India in subsequent hearings of the case,” it added.

Furthermore, it is extremely crucial to mention here that out of the six convicts who have been granted remission, four are Sri Lankan Nationals, said the plea. “Granting remission to the terrorist of a foreign nation, who had been duly convicted in accordance with the law of land for the gruesome offence of assassinating the former Prime Minister of the Country, is a matter which has international ramification and therefore falls squarely within the sovereign powers of the Union of India,” the Centre added.

The Supreme Court’s November 11 order “being violative of principles of natural justice and wreaked with glaring and manifest errors apparent on the face of the record, keeping in view the international ramifications it entails, there is also substantial cause in the matter warranting its review and an open hearing, wherein, Union of India could be afforded an opportunity to place the correct and germane facts before this Court to assist it to arrive at a just and correct decision in the matter i.e. why the six convicts were not entitled for any relief by this Court,” the Centre further stated.

The top court in its order noted that Nalini has been behind bars for over three decades and her conduct has also been satisfactory. She has a PG diploma in Computer Application and Ravichandran’s conduct has also been found to be satisfactory and he has undertaken various studies during his incarceration including a PG diploma in Arts.

The top court had released Nalini, Ravichandran, Robert Payas, Jayakumar, S Raja, and Shriharan. On May 18, the Supreme Court had evoked its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to release AG Perarivalan, who was one of the seven convicts in the assassination case.

Nalini and Ravichandran had approached the apex court seeking release from the prison-like fellow convict AG Perarivalan. The Tamil Nadu government had earlier recommended the pre-mature release of convicts saying that its 2018 aid and advice for the remission of their life sentence is binding upon the Governor.

It had considered mercy petitions of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and resolved to recommend the Governor for the remission of their life sentences invoking the power granted under Article 161 of the Constitution.

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Nalini and Ravichandran had earlier knocked on the door of the Madras High Court seeking the same relief, however, the High Court had refused to entertain the petition. The Madras High Court while turning down the petition had stated that it did not have special powers that the Supreme Court has under Article 142 of the Constitution and hence, it cannot order their release, as the Supreme Court did for Perarivalan in May 2022.The High Court had said they could approach the Supreme Court if their plea was based on Perarivalan’s release.

Following Perarivalan’s release, Ravichandran had sent a letter to Chief Minister MK Stalin seeking the release of the remaining six convicts, including him and mentioned that the Governor has kept the files of release without consideration for over three years which he condemns as an anti-constitutional approach.

Deciding Perarivalan’s plea for premature release from jail based on the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu government in September 2018, the apex court ordered his release, while the six other convicts remain in jail. Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at a poll rally.