Release of six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: Union Government seeks review of Supreme Court’s order

The release of the six convicts by the Supreme Court, on the basis of its previous order in the A.G. Perarivalan case, has led to a debate on whether the Court was right in doing so.

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WITHIN days of the Supreme Court directing the release of the six convicts in the assassination case of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Union Government has sought a review of the court’s order, contending that that it was passed without affording an adequate opportunity of hearing to it.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has contended that it was a necessary party to the appeal preferred by the convicts. However, the convicts did not implead it as the party to the petition. The onus for doing so rested with the convicts, it said.

“This procedural lapse on the part of the petitioners resulted in non-participation of Union of India in subsequent hearings of the case”, the review petition states.

The review petition asserts that the procedural lapse has resulted in the Supreme Court being denuded from vital assistance on behalf of the Union Government, with crucial facts, going into the root of the matter, which would have appeared and ex-facie demonstrated the distinction between the order passed by the Supreme Court on May 18, 2022 in the case of co-accused A.G. Perarivalan and the order under review in the case of six convicts.

The Supreme Court, while ordering the release of the six convicts -Robert Payas, Jeyakumar, T. Suthendraraja @ Santhan, R.P. Ravichandran, S. Nalini and V. Sriharan @ Murugan – heavily relied upon its decision passed on May 18 releasing Perarivalan on bail, noting that he has already spent over 30 years of imprisonment and there were no complaints about his conduct when he was released three times before on parole.

The government has now contended that there is a distinction between the case of Perarivalan and others. It is submitted by the government that only three convicts actually preferred their mercy petition to the Governor of Tamil Nadu under Article 161 of the Constitution besides other authorities. They are – Perarivalan, Ravichandran and Sriharan.

The review petition also asserts that out of the six convicts who have been granted remission, four are Sri Lankan nationals, namely- Jeyakumar, Payas, Suthendraraja and Sriharan.

“Granting remission to terrorist of foreign nation, who had been duly convicted in accordance with the law of land for gruesome offence of assassinating the former Prime Minister of the Country, is a matter which has international ramification and therefore falls squarely within the sovereign powers of the Union of India”, the review petition states.

It further states that considering the seriousness and sensitivity of the matter and the fact that four petitioners were Sri Lankan nationals any decision with regard to foreigners would have serious international implications; therefore, the same falls under the sovereign power of the Union Government under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Indian National Congress leader and lawyer Abhishek M. Singhvi denounced the release of the six convicts, calling the Supreme Court’s decision a matter of “serious concern”. As he spoke on behalf of the Congress, Singhvi even “disagreed’” with Sonia Gandhi – the former Congress chief and the wife of the assassinated Rajiv Gandhi – on the matter.