The Supreme Court on Monday decided to hear the victims of the bomb blast that killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and gave them permission to file additional documents.
Sixteen people were killed and many grievously injured in the blast at Sriperumbudur near Chennai in 1991. The Central government had termed it a "gruesome, inhuman, uncivilised and merciless bomb blast".
With this latest order, the controversy surrounding the move made by the Tamil Nadu government for the release of the seven convicts has taken a new twist.
A Bench, led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, allowed the victims to amend their petition, filed in March 2014, and bring on record the recent resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu government, which recommended to the Governor that the convicts be released.
Hearing after four weeks
The Bench, also comprising Justices Navin Sinha and K.M. Joseph, has scheduled the case for hearing after four weeks.
Petitioners S. Abbas, John Joseph, America V. Narayanan, Mrs. R. Mala, M. Samuvel Diraviyam and K. Ramasugandam had moved the Supreme Court against the then Jayalalithaa government’s proposal to grant the convicts remission in a letter dated February19, 2014.
“In the present case the State government had overlooked the above proposition for narrow political gain and in one stroke ordered for release of Rajiv assassins. The attitude of the State government is against the constitutional value and national spirit and for narrow political consideration,” the victims had contended.
They had said that the State should consider the effect of the release of the convicts on the families of the victims, society, and the precedent it would set for the future.
However, the Supreme Court at that time indicated that it would first take up the petition filed by the Centre, which too had moved it, challenging the State’s power to grant remission in the case investigated by the CBI. The victims’ petition was thus kept on hold.
Subsequently, on December 2, 2015, a five-judge Constitution Bench, led by then-Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, interpreted the law to hold that the States cannot unilaterally remit the sentences of life convicts in cases investigated by a Central agency under a Central law.
T.N. wanted Centre to concur
This Bench, however, left the factual question of whether the seven convicts deserve remission or not to a three-judge Bench. Following this, the Tamil Nadu government wrote to the Centre on March 2, 2016 proposing the grant of remission to the convicts. The State government had wanted the Centre to concur.
But the Centre did not respond for almost two years. However, in April last, after an order from the Supreme Court, the Centre rejected Tamil Nadu’s proposal to release the seven convicts undergoing life imprisonment. It called the assassination “an unparalleled act in the annals of crimes committed in this country”.
On September 6, the Supreme Court Bench, led by Justice Gogoi, closed the Centre’s petition and gave liberty to the Tamil Nadu Governor to decide on the plea for pardon filed by one of the convicts, A.G. Perarivalan. Three days later, on September 9, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet recommended the release of all the seven convicts. The issue of their release is currently pending before the Governor.