New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that Jayalalithaa government in Tamil Nadu could not unilaterally commute life terms of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts and release them without the Centre's concurrence.
With the SC ruling that in cases where death sentence has been commuted to life, the convict has to undergo imprisonment for his entire life, Rajiv assassination case life convicts might end up spending their entire lives behind bars. The political game had begun on February 18 last year when the SC commuted the death sentence of three condemned convicts in Rajiv case - Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan - on the ground that consideration of their mercy petitions was delayed by nearly 11 years by successive Presidents.
On February 19, the Jayalalithaa government decided to commute the life sentence of these three along with four other lifers in the same case - Nalini, Robert Pyas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran - saying that all of them had served more than 23 years' of imprisonment. Nalini was sentenced to death but her sentence was commuted to life by the TN governor long ago.
The Centre had swiftly moved the SC challenging the decision and the court on February 20 last year stayed the TN government's decision. The Centre's main argument was that the case was investigated by the CBI, a central investigating agency, and hence a state government could not exercise its power to remit sentences without the concurrence of the Union government. Moreover, the case involved killing of a former PM and not fit for grant of remission of sentence, it had argued.