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Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case : Supreme Court Issues Notice To Centre, TN Govt On Plea By Nalini & Ravichandran For Premature Release

Awstika Das
26 Sep 2022 7:55 AM GMT
Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case : Supreme Court Issues Notice To Centre, TN Govt On Plea By Nalini & Ravichandran For Premature Release
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The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on the special leave petitions filed by Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts Nalini Srihar and R.P. Ravichandran seeking premature release. The appeals were preferred after the Madras High Court dismissed the pleas of the life convicts on June 17. The apex court has sought responses from the Union of India and the state of Tamil Nadu. [R.P. Ravichandran...

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on the special leave petitions filed by Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts Nalini Srihar and R.P. Ravichandran seeking premature release. The appeals were preferred after the Madras High Court dismissed the pleas of the life convicts on June 17. The apex court has sought responses from the Union of India and the state of Tamil Nadu. [R.P. Ravichandran v. State of Tamil Nadu and S. Nalini v. State of Tamil Nadu]

The petitioners had been pronounced guilty in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a special court constituted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985. Nalini, along with 25 others, was sentenced to death by the TADA Court in 1998. When the matter travelled to the Supreme Court, a Bench headed by Justice K.T. Thomas acquitted 19 convicts, but upheld the death sentences of four of them, including Nalini. Three others were sentenced to undergo life imprisonment. Ravichandran was among them. Nalini's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2000 by the Tamil Nadu government. In 2018, the AIADMK Cabinet recommended the release of the seven convicts, but the Governor refused to authorise this remission.

The petitioners then moved the Madras High Court for a sanction of their release, relying on the Supreme Court's decision earlier this year to invoke its extraordinary powers under Article 142 and release another convict, A.G. Perarivalan. But a Division Bench of the High Court rejected the petitions filed by Nalini and Ravichandran, observing that the High Court did not have special powers enjoyed by the Supreme Court under Article 142. Thus, the Bench, composed of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N. Mala, refused to order the release of the convicts without the assent of the Governor. The order stated –

"The view taken aforesaid is substantiated from the fact that even the Apex Court in the case of A.G. Perarivalan, supra, has not ordered for release of the accused holding that without the signature of the Governor to accept the resolution, a direction can be given by the High Court. Rather, to order for release, the Apex Court invoked its power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India can be exercised only by the Apex Court and no such power exists with the High Court. The aforesaid goes to the root of the case to hold that without the signature of the Governor to authorise the resolution, this court cannot pass an order directing the State Government to release the accused, otherwise the direction therein would not only offend Article 161 of the Constitution of India, but also Article 163 of the Constitution of India."

It is this decision which has been challenged by the petitioners before the Supreme Court. The Division Bench, comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and B.V. Nagarathna, will take up the matter on October 14.

The petitioners are currently out on parole, having been released during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Case Title :  R.P. Ravichandran v. State of Tamil Nadu represented by Its Chief Secretary & Ors. [SLP (Crl) No. 7536/2022] & S. Nalini v. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr. [SLP (Crl) No. 8178/2022]

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