Thursday, April 24, 2014

LTTE murderers will remain in jail (for now)

Update: This is probably the best decision the panel could have taken given the grave constitutional issues (state vs. center powers)  involved. A larger bench will examine and decide. 
As it stands we have (temporary) relief for the families of the victims and anxious anticipation for the families of the perps.
 The Supreme Court on Friday referred the case related to release of those convicted of killing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to a larger constitutional bench. The convicts will not be released from prison till further orders, the court said.

A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam pronounced the judgment at 10.30am on Friday. The apex court wanted the five-judge constitution bench to decide that after commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment whether the government can further grant them remission by releasing them.

The Supreme Court said that the constitution bench will also address which government has the power to exercise remission for condemned prisoners under the code of criminal procedure; whether it is the state government or the central government, or both.

The Supreme Court verdict on the (continuing imprisonment) LTTE murderers was postponed keeping in mind the elections that were conducted in Tamil Nadu on 04/24.

There was however one more important deadline to consider: Chief Justice of India (P Sathasivam, only the second Tamil to be holding this august position), will be retiring on April 26th and has made a personal declaration to the media that he will be chairing the 3 member panel that will issue the judgement.

The popular sentiment currently in TN is overwhelmingly in favor of the thugs and has managed to bleach away the blood-stained memories of the twelve Tamilians murdered in Sri Perumbudur on May 21, 1991 (along with a few non-Tamilians). It will surely be interesting to peruse the detailed reasoning behind the verdict.

Regardless of our personal bias, we wish for justice to roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.....for the perpetrators as well as the victims.

The fate of the three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case — V Sriharan alias Murugan, A G Perarivalan and T Suthendraraja alias Santhan — will be known on Friday, when the Supreme Court delivers its verdict on their premature release.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam will deliver the judgment at 10.30am on Friday, and rule on the validity of Tamil Nadu government's sensational decision to release them from prison prematurely.

The bench will also pass orders on the appeal filed by another life convict in the case, P R Ravichandran, against denial of release by the state government's advisory board in 2008.

Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated at Sriperumpudur near Chennai in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991. A special court for Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (POTA) found all the 26 persons guilty of the offence and awarded them death sentence in January 1998. On a referred appeal before the Supreme Court, the death penalty of only four — Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan — were confirmed. Later, on the recommendation of the Tamil Nadu cabinet, the state's governor commuted the death penalty of Nalini alone to life.

Meanwhile, the mercy pleas of the three condemned persons pending before the President for more than 11 years were rejected, and their hanging was scheduled to be held in September 2011. It was, however, stayed by the Madras high court.

On February 18 this year, the apex court commuted their death sentence into imprisonment for life, saying inordinate and unexplained delay in disposing of their mercy pleas by the President would be a valid ground for commuting their sentence. On February 19, Tamil Nadu chief minister, J Jayalalithaa, announced their immediate release from prison prematurely by invoking provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Assailing the decision, the Centre rushed to the Supreme Court, which stayed their release on February 20.

Last week, Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam, on a visit to Coimbatore, told a group of reporters there that verdict on the validity of their premature release will be given before his retirement on April 26. Taking exception to the announcement and apprehending a motive at the timing of such a disclosure, former chief minister M Karuananidhi had said the CJI ought not to have discussed such a thing in public, that too while the elections in the state were round the corner.

Now, just a day before his retirement on April 26, a bench headed by the CJI Sathasivam will decide the validity of the state government decision to release them prematurely. 


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