Reuters: The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday (2) said that the killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi could not be released by the State Government without the federal government’s consent and will remain in jail.
A constitutional bench said that the State Government of India’s southern Tamil Nadu had no powers to release the convicts on its own as the case was investigated by federal agency Central Bureau of Investigation.
“The constitutional bench has held the central government has the primacy over the state government wherever power is vested with both the central government as well as the state government,” said a lawyer of an accused, Gowthaman.
Last year, the federal government had moved the apex court after the Tamil Nadu state chief, Jayaram Jayalalithaa, announced that her government would release the people convicted for the assassination of Gandhi in 1991 by a suicide bomber.
Gandhi was prime minister when he was killed in May 1991 by a suicide bomber at a public meeting in Tamil Nadu.
The three Indian men - tried as Santhan, Murugan, Perarivalan-were members of a Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and Gandhi’s killing was seen as an act of retaliation after he sent Indian peacekeepers to Sri Lanka in 1987.
Meanwhile, a leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Subramanian Swamy, said he was happy with the decision as he was the first to oppose the release of the convicts.
“Part of the problem is the stupid resolution passed in the Tamil Nadu assembly, brainless one which is also anti-national where they said that the killers of Rajiv Gandhi should be let free because of Tamil sentiments,” said Swamy.
The Supreme Court last year commuted death sentences of the three men to life imprisonment. The three were convicted of involvement in 1998 and sentenced to death by hanging.
A fourth person, a woman, was also given the death sentence but it was later commuted to a life term.