In a setback for Tamil Nadu (TN) state government, India’s Supreme Court refused the release of the assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on Thursday by submitting a review petition by the federal government challenging the state government’s decision.
The top court asked the TN state government to maintain the sentence of the three convicts, after the Supreme Court changed it into life imprisonment on Tuesday citing an inordinate delay of 11-years as the reason.
The apex court issued a notice to the TN government on the federal government’s petition that the state government is not allowed to remit the sentences of the former prime minister’s killers.
The Supreme Court also said that there is an elaborate procedure for remission of such life sentences, which the TN government appears not to have followed.
“The remission of a life sentence which is awarded on commuting death penalty is not automatic,” the Supreme Court said.
On Wednesday, Tamil Nadu state government decided to release seven convicts of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case after due consultation with the federal government.
Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, told the state assembly: "If we don’t get their [federal government's] response in three days, we will release all convicts in accordance with the rights granted under Indian Constitution."
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release the killers of Gandhi is 'not legally tenable and should not be proceeded with.'
"The assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi was an attack on the soul of India. The release of the killers of a former prime minister of India and our great leader, as well as several other innocent Indians, would be contrary to all principles of justice," Singh said in a statement.
"No government or party should be soft in our fight against terrorism," he said.
Gandhi was assassinated in May 1991, during an election campaign, by members of Sri Lankan rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE).
An anti-terror court sentenced the killers to death penalty in January 1998 and India’s top court upheld the sentence in May 1999.