01 apr 2014
Rajiv Gandhi assassins will not hang, reiterates Supreme Court
New Delhi: Three men from Tamil Nadu convicted of killing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi will not hang, the Supreme court reiterated today.
The top court had commuted their death sentence in February because of an 11-year delay in deciding on their petitions of mercy. The union government had appealed against the decision to reduce their punishment to life imprisonment, but lost its case today.
Mr Gandhi was killed while campaigning in an election in the town of Sriperumbudur in May 1991 by a suicide bomber from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Santhan, Murugan, Perarivalan were convicted of involvement in 1998 and sentenced to death by hanging. A fourth person, Nalini, was also given the death sentence but it was later commuted to a life term. Three others are serving life terms.
After the Supreme Court’s February verdict, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said her government would free all seven convicts, planting it in a face-off with the Centre ahead of the national election.
“The assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi was an attack on the soul of India,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said. “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.”
The union government also filed a petition at the Supreme Court arguing that Jayalalithaa’s government does not have the power to free the convicts. The court then blocked the chief minister from releasing the assassins, who have spent more than 20 years in jail.
Jayalalithaa’s stand was a bid to woo voters in her state ahead of the parliamentary elections, by showing that she can outdo her rivals when it comes to supporting Tamils and standing up to New Delhi, analysts said.