New Delhi, Feb 21 IBNS | 10 months ago

Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said the legal basis for the Supreme Court commuting the death sentence of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's killers is wrong.

"I have said this before and I say it again that the basis of that judgement is not correct, the legal basis of the judgement said that delay alone is sufficient to allow a petition," Chidambaram told CNN-IBN's Karan Thapar.

"It only puts it on delay, inordinate delay. World-over death row prisoners remain in the death row for 20 years to 25 years. It's not easy to execute a death sentence," he said.

Asked about his reaction on commuting the death sentence to life in prison for the killers, Chidambaram said: "I am neither happy nor unhappy. All I know is that there is a Supreme Court judgement, but I said that the basis of the judgment is wrong."

"Remember, I was the Home Minister, who had to submit the mercy petition to the President. It had been recalled, it was lying there in the President's office for many years, I recommended that the mercy petition be rejected because this was a case of a terrorist attack.

"The President accepted the government's recommendation and rejected the mercy petition. It is against that the case was filed in the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court overturned the government's decision," he told the news channel.

"There were very clearly, very clearly, we are very clear in our mind that this is the rarest of the rare cases," he said.

The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Tamil Nadu government from releasing three killers involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

The apex court stayed the release of AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, Sriharan alias Murugan and T Suthentiraraja alias Santhan.

However, the court on Thursday did not stay the release of four other convicts in the case.

The Supreme Court will hear the case again on Mar 6.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government moved the Supreme Court on Thursday against the release of all the seven convicts in the case.

The Centre filed a petition before the Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's Cabinet met on Wednesday morning and decided to free the seven convicts a day after the court had left it to the state government to grant them remission.

The convicts, to be freed, included AG Perarivalan, Nalini, Santhan, Murugan, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of Rajiv Gandhi's killers to life in prison.

The three convicts, Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, had sought the commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in deciding their mercy plea.

A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam pronounced the verdict and granted them mercy.

Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan are in prison for over two decades.

The other one to be freed - Murugan's wife Nalini Sriharan's death sentence had been commuted earlier on the intervention of Rajiv Gandhi's widow, Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The Centre had earlier opposed commuting their death sentence to life imprisonment.

Rajiv Gandhi, the sixth Prime Minister of India, was killed at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, India on 21 May 1991. At least 14 others were also killed.

His assassination was carried out by Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, also known as Dhanu, who was found after investigations to be a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber.

(Posted on 21-02-2014)

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