Supreme Court of India on 25 April 2014 referred the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case to the Constitutional Bench. The Rajiv Gandhi assassination case pertains to the remission of the life imprisonment of seven convicts. In its direction, the Supreme Court said that the interim order of staying the Tamil Nadu Government’s decision to free them will continue.
The matter will be taken up by the Constitutional bench within three months. During this period the Constitution bench will look into the constitutionality of the issue whether the sentence of a prisoner, whose death penalty has been commuted to life, can be remitted by the government.
The Chief Justice of India has the power to constitute a Constitution Bench — comprising five or more judges — to hear substantial matters of constitutional law.
The decision of transferring the case to the Constitutional Bench was made by a SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam. The decision was made by the apex court while hearing the petition filed by the Centre challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to remit the sentences.
The Tamil Nadu government led by Jayalalithaa on 19 February 2014 decided to set free all the seven convicts in the assassination case.
The Supreme Court on 20 February 2014 stayed the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release the three convicts, namely Murugan, Santhan and Arivu. The death sentence of these three convicts was commuted to life term by the SC on 18 February 2014.
The court has observed that there had been procedural lapses on the part of the state government. Later the court stayed the release of convicts Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran in the case.
At present, Santhan, Murugan and Arivu are lodged in the Central Prison, Vellore and are in jail since 1991. The other four who played a role in Gandhi’s assassination on 21 May 1991 in Sriperumnudur are also undergoing a sentence of life term. The assassins in January 1998 were convicted by a TADA Court and were awarded death sentence, which was further confirmed by the Supreme Court on 11 May 1999.
What: formed by Supreme Court
When: 25 April 2014