The Central Government on Friday stopped the dubious moves to release the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s killers by clearly telling Madras High Court that “life sentence means the entire life of a person”, citing the Supreme Court’s direction. The convicts, Robert Payas and Jayakumar belong to erstwhile LTTE terror outfit, had filed habeas corpus petitions for being included in the list of 180 accused proposed for premature release on Republic Day eve.
…UPA Government led by Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi had delayed taking a decision on the mercy petition…
When the petitions came up for hearing on August 9, a division bench of Justice A Selvam and Justice Pon Kalaiyarasan directed the Union government to file its reply considering “the long pendency of the matter”. In its counter, the Union Home Ministry informed the High Court that in view of the interpretation by the apex court, “a life sentence means the entire life of a person” and thus the petitioners cannot seek relief.
He counter referred to the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to remit the life sentences and release of seven convicts, including the two involved in the Rajiv Gandhi case. It said the Union government had challenged the decision in the apex court.
The counter affidavit said the apex court had on December 2, 2015, categorically held that in this matter, the Union government was the appropriate authority. Subsequently, when the state government sought its views on the release of the seven convicts, the Centre had said in view of the apex court’s order, that it would not be appropriate for the Union government to act upon the proposal.
The counter further stated that the Union home ministry was the appropriate authority to decide the release of the convicts and therefore the prison rules referred by the petitioners were not relevant to the case.
The killers were sentenced to death for their role in the assassination of the former prime minister, but the sentence was later commuted to life by the Supreme Court in 1999. In February 2014, the apex court had commuted the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan, and Perarivalan following a delay in deciding on their mercy plea. This shows that UPA Government led by Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi had delayed taking a decision on the mercy petition leading to their death sentence from a life sentence.
The many Dravidian parties were arguing for their early release. Even Congress leaders from Tamil Nadu including P Chidambaram supported this move. Only Subramanian Swamy was opposing tooth and nail against Rajiv killers release from jail.