“We could have simply said we are commuting the death sentence for Rajiv case convicts”

Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam on Thursday indicated that the issue of release of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case would be solved within a week.

The CJI, who heads a three-judge Bench hearing the Centre’s writ petition to stop their release, told senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government: “We are responsible for this problem. We will solve it within a week.”

“In our judgment, we could have simply said we are commuting the death sentence to life sentence. We need not have observed anything on remission; we did it only for clarity, subject to the appropriate government following the due procedure. Do you know [that] under the procedure, the convict will have to make a request and the State government will have to seek a report from the trial court concerned and thereafter take a decision?” the CJI asked.

The court said: “Every State must be aware of the procedure. Which is the appropriate government for taking decisions, for all these things, we will lay down guidelines. We will take up maintainability first.”

The Centre said the Tamil Nadu government was not the appropriate government to consider the issue of remission as mandated under Section 435 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The powers of the State government had been taken away as the case was investigated by the CBI and the offences came under the Central List such as the Arms Act, the Explosive Substances Act, the Foreigners Act, the Wireless Telegraphy Act and the Passport Act. There was no occasion for the State government to consider grant of remission to the seven convicts, the petition said.

The Centre said the assassination was one of the gravest cases, with the brutal killing of the former Prime Minister and injuries to several others.

At no point of time did the seven convicts express any remorse for their act, and the consideration of remission was passed by the State government without regard to the Cr.PC provisions, the petition said. Stating that this was not a fit case for granting remission, the Centre sought quashing of the February 19 Tamil Nadu order.

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