The Tamil Nadu government Wednesday moved the Supreme Court, seeking reconsideration of the judgment that blocked the release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Filing a review petition in the court, the state government has challenged the majority ruling of the Constitution Bench in December last year that had held that state governments cannot remit jail terms of convicts in cases of national importance without the Centre’s approval.
A five-judge Bench had stalled the J Jayalalithaa government’s move to free all seven convicts, saying that no remission can be granted by “putting the interest of the nation in peril”.
The review petition has contended that the letters of the Criminal Procedure Code were clear that the central government had no primacy in matters relating to remission or commutation of sentence and that it was “erroneous” on the part of the Bench to hold that the Centre had a “special status” under the constitutional scheme.
Arguing that the law required it to consult the Centre before commuting the sentence, it said the Bench interpreted “consultation” as “concurrence”, thereby circumscribing the statutory power conferred upon state governments for remission and commutation. This, the petition claimed, would disturb the balance of power between the central and the state governments and the state governments henceforth would be reluctant to prefer CBI probes.
The Tamil Nadu government also questioned maintainability of the writ petition filed by the Centre in the apex court against the state government’s decision to release the convicts and said fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution are only for citizens of India.
“In the case of remitting the sentence of the convicts it is the state government which is the executive authority more competent to decide the outcome of such release/ remission of convicted persons because of its proximity to the facts and circumstances relating to the case…” stated the petition.
Disputing the reasoning in the verdict that granted the Centre overriding authority in cases of national importance, the petition has argued that “it is essential to reverse this rational which degraded an equal constitutional entity i.e. the ‘states’ to a secondary position to the Centre which is a attribute of an unitary constitution…”
On February 18, 2014, the court had commuted death sentence of three convicts — Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan — due to inordinate delay by the executive in deciding their mercy plea. The next day, the state government suo motu ordered release of all seven life convicts. The Centre then went to court and got their release stayed.