09 May 2019
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the plea by families of those killed along with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a LTTE suicide bomber at Tamil Nadu's Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991, opposing the release of the seven remaining convicts in the case.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said: "All aspects were covered in the earlier constitution bench verdict in the case and, therefore, nothing survives in the case. In view of the above, the writ petition stands disposed of."
As an outcome of the apex court's decision, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit will take a decision regarding freeing the seven convicts held guilty in the assassination of the former PM and 16 others.
On September 9, 2018, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet passed an order recommending the release of the convicts but the issue has been pending before the Governor, who is yet to take any decision, as the petition of the victims' families was pending in the top court.
When in 2014, the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa decided to free the convicts, who have already been in jail for 28 years after the apex court commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment, K. Ramasugandam, John Joseph, R. Mala, M. Samuvel Diraviyam, America V. Narayanan and S. Abbas filed a petition against it in the apex court.
Senior advocates Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Prabu Ramasubramanium, representing A.G. Perarivalan, who is one of the seven convicts, brought the CJI's attention to the victims' petition pending in the top court since 2014. They also argued that none of the convicts were ever made parties in the case, despite that their lives were directly linked, and as a consequence, the petition has become infructuous.
Agreeing with the argument, the court said: "Having considered the matter, we are of the view that no live issue remains for adjudication in view of the Constitution Bench judgement of this court."
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by then Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, had in 2015 upheld Centre's right to decide, on the remission of sentence of life convicts, specifically where the case was investigated by the Centre. It then allowed the three-judge bench to give the final word on the case.
Sankaranarayanan contended the three-judge bench had already closed the case, and as a consequence, there is simply nothing left in the top court and the court agreed.
Following these verdicts in 2015, the Tamil Nadu government had written to the Centre in March 2016 proposing remission of sentence of these convicts as it expected the Centre would be in harmony on this issue. But, in April 2018, the Centre refused to budge from its previous stand opposing the release, saying the crime was unparalleled in the history of the country.
The apex court took an opposite stand to the Centre in September 2018, and asked the Tamil Nadu Governor to decide the fate of the convicts.