The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the release of four convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, ordering status quo on a plea by the Centre challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to release them.
The court bench headed by Justice P Sathasivam directed that the central government’s plea would be heard on March 6. The court also issued notice to the state government and the four prisoners on the Centre’s plea against their release.
It asked as to why the Centre rushed to the apex court instead of replying to the state government’s letter seeking the stand of the Union government on the release of the prisoners.
“Is the Centre rushing or you are rushing?,” the bench questioned the state government and made it clear that it will first consider the maintainability of the Centre’s petition before going into its merits.
“You take it from us that we would consider the maintainability issue first,” it said, adding,”We would solve the problem amicably.”
The bench said that every state must be aware about the procedure to be followed for the release of prisoners.
Supreme Court commutes death penalty of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers to life term
The Centre on Monday had moved the apex court to prevent Tamil Nadu government to set free four other convicts serving life imprisonment in the case.
The apex court had on February 20 stayed the release of three convicts — Murugan, Santhan and Arivu — whose death sentence was commuted to life term by it on February 18 in the case, saying there had been procedural lapses on the part of the state government on the decision to release them.
The Centre’s move came after the apex court had said it could file a fresh petition regarding the other four prisoners whose sentence has also been remitted by the Tamil Nadu government. It has sought stay on the release of convicts Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.
The Jayalalithaa government had on February 19 decided to set free all the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Santhan, Murugan and Arivu are currently lodged in the Central Prison, Vellore, in Tamil Nadu and they are in jail since 1991. The other four are undergoing life sentence for their role in Gandhi’s assassination on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur.
Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber at an election rally in Sriperumbedur on May 21, 1991. Fourteen other people also lost their lives in the blast.