Centre seeks recall of Supreme Court order releasing Rajiv Gandhi killing convicts

Centre seeks recall of Supreme Court order releasing Rajiv Gandhi killing convicts

Congress criticised the Centre’s review petition as “belated wisdom”.

The Union government on Thursday moved the Supreme Court, requesting it to review and recall its November 11 order directing release of six Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts by granting remission of sentence. It said that the court had erred by enlarging foreign terrorists convicted for assassination of a former PM without hearing the Centre.

Seeking an open court hearing of its review petition, generally considered in chamber by judges, the Centre said the order releasing six convicts -Nalini Sriharan, Santhan alias Raviraj, Murugan, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran alias Ravi- wrongly drew parity with earlier released convict in the same case, AG Perarivalan. The latter is an Indian whereas four of the six released convicts on November 11 were foreign nationals.

It said, "Out of the six convicts who have been granted remission, four are Sri Lankan nationals. Granting remission to terrorist of foreign nation, who had been duly convicted in accordance with the law of land for gruesome offence of assassinating the former PM of the country, is a matter which has international ramification and therefore falls squarely within the sovereign powers of the Union of India."

Filing a review petition against the release of six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assasination case, the Centre complained that in such an important matter, the court did not hear the Union government and thus crucial material facts against the release could not be placed before the court.

The Centre said the Supreme Court had on November 11 released the six convicts in the case "without affording an adequate opportunity of hearing to Union of India, which was a necessary party, or being formally impleaded as a party to the petition, the onus of which rested with the appellants/convicts". "Considering the seriousness and sensitivity of the matter and the fact that four petitioners were Sri Lankan nationals therefore, any decision about foreigners would have serious international implications, therefore, the same falls under the sovereign power of the Union of India under the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution," it said.

On May 11, 1999, the SC had confirmed the death sentence awarded to Nalini, Santhan, Murugan and Arivu and commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment for Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran. It had quashed the conviction and death sentence for remaining accused. This deprived the SC of vital assistance from the Union government, which had crucial facts going to the root of the matter. If the Union government was heard by the SC, it would have ex facie demonstrated the distinction between the May 18 order releasing Perarivalan and the November 11 order releasing six others. "The said facts could not be placed before the SC," the Centre said.

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Review plea belated wisdom: Congress

Congress criticised the Centre’s review petition as “belated wisdom”. In a statement, the AICC said, “The government’s decision to file review petition is a case of belated wisdom dawning. The BJP government has been blatantly apathetic towards this case. What’s the point in locking the door after the horse has bolted?”

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