National interest at stake, says court

The >Supreme Court judgment brings under a cloud the Tamil Nadu government’s letter dated February 19, 2014, to the Centre, proposing the release of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Tamil Nadu had maintained that the letter was in the nature of a consultation with the Centre under Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The State government had complained that the Centre, instead of responding to it, went straight to the Supreme Court the very next day on February 20. The Constitution Bench, however, did not go into the merits of the letter and instead referred the factual question to a three-judge Bench to decide separately. Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose seconded the judgment written by

Addressing this issue, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla said the word ‘consultation’ in Section 435 actually meant ‘concurrence’. In short, the court ruled that consultation with the Centre in such heinous cases should not be an “empty formality” as national interest is at stake.

Reiterating that life imprisonment is “lifelong”, the majority judgment upheld the Supreme Court’s Swami Shraddananda verdict in 2008 that constitutional courts in special cases of heinous offences and terrorist crimes, where they do not want to award the death penalty, could go ahead and sentence a convict to 20 to 30 to 40 years of imprisonment without the right to apply for remission. Such judicial pronouncements by courts in public interest for a prolonged period of imprisonment without remission should not be interfered with by the government.

“A person who has deprived another person of his liberty forever and has endangered the liberty of his family has no right to ask the court to uphold his liberty. Liberty is not a one-sided concept,” Justice Kalifulla wrote.

Besides, Justice Kalifulla observed reformation was not possible without proper deterrence and penitence and there would be “complete chaos if criminals are let loose to prey time and again on innocent lives”.

The Centre had contended that no further mercy should be shown to the convicts in the 1991 assassination case. The Supreme Court had on February 20, 2014 stayed the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release three convicts — Murugan, Santhan and Arivu — whose death sentences were commuted to life term by it on February 18. Later, it had also stayed the release of four other convicts — Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 3:21:52 AM |

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