The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court yesterday deferred to July 21 the hearing on the question of power of remission by the Centre and States, which had arisen after Tamil Nadu government had decided to remit the sentences and set free seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, Justice P.C. Ghose, Justice A.M. Sapre and Justice U.U. Lalit, was informed by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar that the issue would require extensive hearing for three to four days.
This was opposed by Senior Advocate Ram Jethmalani, representing V. Sriharan alias Murugan, one of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case, contending that the matter did not require that much time.
Mr. Jethmalani had challenged the maintainability of the petition by contending that it seeks to challenge the correctness of a final judgment of this court through a writ petition under Article 32.
"It is well settled in law that a judgment of this court cannot be challenged by way of a petition under Article 32. The only remedy is by way of a Review or Curative petition," it said, adding, "the stay obtained in respect of remissions all over the country (not confined to the present convicts) continues unlawfully even today".
On February 18 last year, the Supreme Court granted relief to the three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, by commuting their death sentence into life term on the grounds that the 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petition by the Central government had a dehumanizing effect on them.
The very next day Tamil Nadu Government led by Jayalalithaa decided to set free all the seven convicts in the assassination case.
The court then on February 20 stayed the decision to release of three convicts–Murugan, Santhan and Arivu— whose death sentence was commuted to life term by it on February 18 in the case, saying there had been procedural lapses on the part of the state government on the decision to release them.
The apex court later on had also stayed release of the other four convicts, Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran in the case.
On April 25, 2014, the matter was referred to a Constitution Bench. The interim order to stay the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to free them was ordered to be in effect till the matter is decided by the Constitution Bench. The Court had framed 7 questions to be decided by the Constitution Bench. Read the LiveLaw story here.