New Delhi, Apr 25 UNI | 3 months ago

A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court will determine whether the state of Tamil Nadu or the Central government is competent to grant clemency to seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

A bench of CJI P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramanna directed the registry to place all the petitions of the seven convicts and the Centre before the new chief justice of India, to set-up a constitutional bench. CJI Sathasivam demits office today. The top court also framed seven questions for the Constitution Bench to decide on the issue of remission.

The ruling came on the writ petition filed by the Centre challenging the Tamil Nadu Government's decision to release the seven convicts in the case.

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in May 1991, along with 14 security personnel at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, by a LTTE suicide bomber.

His assassins were convicted by a TADA court in January 1998 and were awarded death sentence, which was confirmed by the top court on May 11, 1999.

The TN government ordered the release of all seven convicts following an apex court decision to commute the death sentence of Murugan, AG Perarivalan and T Suthendraraja 'Santhan,' factoring in an 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petitions.

Nalini, another convict, was also given death penalty but it was commuted to life following efforts of AICC president Sonia Gandhi.

The other three --Robert Pyas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran-- were serving life sentence.

The ruling has dashed the hopes of an imminent release of the killers of the late former prime minister. The top court had on January 18 this year commuted the death sentence of 16 convicts on the grounds of inexplicable

inordinate delay in the disposal of their clemency petition.

It had ruled that inordinate delay in the disposal of mercy petition is ground for commuting death sentence to life imprisonment.

In Chennai, the mother of Perarivalan expressed dismay over the verdict, saying she was at a loss for words.

Addressing the press soon after the verdict, Arputhammal said, ''I have been fighting for justice for the last 23 years.

'' I have been expecting a favourable verdict from CJI P Sathasivam.

''In fact, I have been making all arrangements to receive my son after his release from Vellore Jail.

''I will continue to fight to prove my son's innocence and secure his release,'' she said.

There is doubt, Arputhammal alleged, about the government's interference in the verdict. ''In fact, I have already proved my son's innocence. '' I don't know why this matter is getting delayed. 'Despite all this, I will continue to fight against death penalty as justice is on our side.

'' I only hope, this does not take more than three months.''

(Posted on 26-04-2014)