The court order is restricted to Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan as the Centre’s application is for restraining the State government from releasing them.

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu government not to release till March 6, 2014 three convicts whose death sentence was commuted by it to life term on Tuesday in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Though the State government decided to free seven convicts in the case, the court order is restricted to Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan as the Centre’s application is for restraining the State government from releasing them. Indications are that the Centre will file an application on Friday to stop the release of Nalini, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.

The Bench, after hearing Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran and senior counsel Rakesh Diwedi for the Tamil Nadu government, who pleaded with the court not to pass any stay order, issued notice to the State, Inspector-General of Prisons, Chennai, and Superintendent of the Central Prison, Vellore, besides the three convicts. The Centre and the State were directed to maintain status quo.

Mr. Parasaran told the court that only the Centre could grant remission, and the Tamil Nadu government had not followed procedure.

Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam observed, “When death is converted to life and remission is granted, authorities have to give special reasons. Our judgment was available at 5 p.m. on the Net on Tuesday. But the Tamil Nadu government took the decision on Wednesday morning. We are not expressing any views. We are not underestimating the powers of the State. We are concerned with the procedural lapses and we will examine it.”

In its February 18 judgment, the court said, “Life imprisonment means end of one’s life, subject to any remission granted by the appropriate government under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which, in turn, is subject to procedural checks.” The Centre said it should be examined whether the Centre or the State was the right government to grant remission.

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