The Supreme Court order directing the premature release of six convicts serving life sentence in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case is “totally unacceptable and completely erroneous,” the Congress said on Friday, while announcing that it would “exercise all its legal rights”.
The party also asserted that “with greatest respect,” it didn’t agree with former party chief Sonia Gandhi and her children who had taken a more sympathetic view on the convicts.
On Friday, a Bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and B.V. Nagarathna said the judgment of the top court in the case of A.G. Perarivalan, one of the convicts in the case who was released earlier, was equally applicable to the remaining six convicts, including Nalini Sriharan and R.P. Ravichandran, serving life sentence in the case
In a strongly-worded statement, Congress general secretary for communication Jairam Ramesh said, “It is most unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not acted in consonance with the spirit of India on this issue”.
“The decision of the Supreme Court to free the remaining killers of the former Prime Minister is totally unacceptable and completely erroneous. The Congress party criticises it clearly and finds it wholly untenable,” Mr. Ramesh said.
Addressing a press conference, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, who is also a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, said the decision had shocked the nation’s conscience and had invited serious concern and criticism from all sides of the political spectrum.
Despite being aware of the nature of the crime and the evidence that led to their conviction as well as the objection of the Governor, why did the top court seek to grant preferential treatment to individuals convicted of the most heinous crime, Mr. Singhvi asked.
“We shall pursue appropriate legal remedies to seek the reversal of this decision. We owe it not only to the people of this country but also to the Supreme Court and the legacy it has built,” he told reporters.
When pointed out that Ms. Gandhi and her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadhra had taken a different view on the punishment of the convicts, Mr. Singhvi said, “We are very consistent that this is an institutional matter. It’s a matter where my views are the same as the Central government. Certainly, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, above all, is entitled to her personal views. But with greatest respect, party doesn’t agree with that view...”.
Nearly two decades ago, Nalini Sriharan’s death sentence was said to have been commuted to life sentence at Ms. Gandhi’s intervention, and in 2008, Ms. Vadra had met her in the Vellore jail.
Congress Lok Sabha members from Tamil Nadu, Karti Chidambaram and Manickam Tagore also criticised the decision despite the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham-led (DMK) government’s strong endorsement of the move.
While Mr. Chidambaram said the release of the convicts shouldn’t be celebrated as they are “no heroes,” Mr. Tagore tweeted, “Why there was no Union Government Advocates present today when the case came up? Whether @narendramodi support the three Srilankans criminals? What about the national security implications Mr Modi? How can you close your eyes and help terrorists?”
“Does PM Modi & govt support the release of terrorists, who assassinated India’s PM? Isn’t this because Modi Govt utterly failed to present its case to SC? Is Modi Govt suffering from petty political partisanship on terrorism? Will PM Modi get the court verdict reviewed?” tweeted senior leader Randeep Surjewala.