New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed a petition filed by the collateral victims of the bomb blast that killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur in 1991. With the dismissal of this petition, the decision of Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit stands between the seven convicts found guilty of the assassination and their freedom.
On September 9 last, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet recommended the release of the convicts. The issue of their release is currently pending before the Governor and he had refrained from taking a call because of the pendency of the victims' petition in the apex court. The convicts have served 28 years in jail. Their death penalty was commuted by the apex court to life sentence. The blast claimed 16 lives and left many with grievous injuries. The government had called it a "gruesome, inhuman, uncivilised and merciless bomb blast".
In December, 2015, the five-judge Constitution Bench while upholding the Centre's prerogative to decide on the remission of life convicts in centrally probed cases, left it to a three-judge Bench to decide whether the convicts deserved to be set free. Following this verdict, the Tamil Nadu government wrote to the Centre on March 2, 2016 proposing to grant remission to the convicts. The State government wanted the Centre to concur. In April 2018, after a gap of almost two years, the Centre refused to concur with Tamil Nadu. It went on to call the assassination “an unparalleled act in the annals of crimes committed in this country”.
But the Centre's stand did not deter the apex court from closing the case in September 2018 and leaving the prisoners' fate in the hands of the Tamil Nadu Governor. Arguing before Chief Justice Gogoi, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan submitted that since the three-judge Bench had closed the case, nothing remained in the Supreme Court. The spotlight was on the Governor. The court finally agreed with the lawyer and dismissed the petition.
The petition was filed by S. Abbas, John Joseph, America V. Narayanan, Mrs. R. Mala, M. Samuvel Diraviyam and K. Ramasugandam against 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 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 contended in 2014. They said 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.
Convict moves Madras HC
Meanwhile, Nalini Sriharan, one of the seven convicts, has filed a petition in the Madras High Court against Tamil Nadu Governor for delaying countersigning the proposal of the Tamil Nadu cabinet for the release of the convicts.