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Explained | Why Did SC Order Release of Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Convicts?

Justices Gavai and Nagarathna held that the order in Perarivalan’s case would apply to the others as well.

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Law
4 min read
Explained | Why Did SC Order Release of Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Convicts?
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The Supreme Court on Friday, 11 November, ordered the premature release of the six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Prior to this, the apex court had in May this year, order the release of AG Perarivalan — another convict in the case. To free Perarivalan, the top court invoked the extraordinary powers granted to it under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

On Friday, a bench of Justices BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna, held that the order in Perarivalan’s case would apply to the other six as well.

So who are the other six?  What did the apex court say while ordering their release? Why was Perarivalan released? And what is Article 142?

Explained | Why Did SC Order Release of Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Convicts?

  1. 1. Who are the Six Convicts?

    Nalini Sriharan is a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
    (Photo: IANS)

    Nalini Sriharan 

    Ordering Nalini’s release the apex court noted that 

    “…she is a woman and has been incarcerated for a period of more than 3 decades and her conduct also is found satisfactory.”

    “She has also undertaken various studies,” they added.

    Sriharan alias Murugan

    Granting relief to Nalini’s husband Sriharan, the bench said that this conduct is also found to be satisfactory and that he too had “undertaken various studies.”

    Robert Pais

    For Pais, court said that he is suffering from various illnesses and has obtained various degrees

    Ravichandran

    Ravichandran’s conduct too was found to be satisfactory and he too had undertaken various studies, besides partaking in charitable purposes

    Suthenthira Raja alias Santhan

    The court noted that Raja too was suffering from various ailments.

    “He has written various articles which have not only been published but have also received awards,” it also said.

    Jaikumar

    For Jaikumar, the court noted that his “conduct is satisfactory” and that “he is suffering from various illnesses.” Reportedly, Jaikumar too had obtained several degrees.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Else Did the SC Note?

    Broadly the apex court observed: 

    • The Tamil Nadu government had recommended the release of all convicts. However, the Governor had not acted upon this recommendation

    • The convicts had spent more than three decades in prison, where their conduct was satisfactory

    This is besides, as stated above, the applicability of the Perarivalan order in case of the convicts.
    Expand
  3. 3. But Why Was Perarivalan Released in the First Place?

    File photo of AG Perarivalan.

    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ARPUTHAMAMMAL)

    On 18 May 2021, amid a legal dispute over who the appropriate authority to decide the remission plea is, the Supreme Court had ordered the release of Perarivalan.

    Perarivalan had been sentenced to death in 1998 (which was later commuted to life-imprisonment) for making the bomb that was used to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi (when he was 19).

    At the time of his release Perarivalan was over 50-years-old.

    The court also held that the Governor was bound by the State cabinet decision in matters of remission and the inordinate delay exhibited by the Governor in arriving at a decision had warranted the convict’s release.

    To free Perarivalan, the top court invoked the extraordinary powers granted to it under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

    Expand
  4. 4. And What Does Article 142 Entail?

    Article 142 entails enforcement of decrees and orders of the Supreme Court.

    According to Article 142(1): "The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe.”

    Thus, the Constitution, under Article 142, allows the Supreme Court to pass any order necessary to provide complete justice in any case or matter pending before it. This power can be invoked by the top court, in matters where the existing laws fail to provide a remedy appropriate enough for complete justice.

    There is not just one type of case in which Article 142 is invoked. Right from environment related issues to human rights matters, and recently even to a tax-related case, the apex court has applied this unique and extraordinary power in a wide and diverse range of matters. The  Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case was one of the most famous cases in which Article 142 was invoked by the apex court.

    Read more about Supreme Court’s special powers under Article 142 here.

    Expand
  5. 5. Legal Background

    In 1998, 25 persons, convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, were sentenced to death by a TADA court. However, subsequently the apex court acquitted 19 of them, even as it upheld the death sentence of four.

    Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2000, and in 2014, the Supreme Court did the same for  Perarivalan, Sriharan and Santhan.

    Following the apex court’s order for Perarivalan’s release, Nalini and Ravichandran had filed pleas before the Madras High Court seeking the same. But the Madras High Court had dismissed their petition, stating:

    “…the directions sought by the petitioner cannot be given by the court, as it otherwise does not have power similar to what the Apex Court has under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.”

    Thereby, the convicts had moved the Supreme Court.

    (With inputs from LiveLaw, The Indian Express and The News Minute.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Who are the Six Convicts?

Nalini Sriharan is a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
(Photo: IANS)

Nalini Sriharan 

Ordering Nalini’s release the apex court noted that 

“…she is a woman and has been incarcerated for a period of more than 3 decades and her conduct also is found satisfactory.”

“She has also undertaken various studies,” they added.

Sriharan alias Murugan

Granting relief to Nalini’s husband Sriharan, the bench said that this conduct is also found to be satisfactory and that he too had “undertaken various studies.”

Robert Pais

For Pais, court said that he is suffering from various illnesses and has obtained various degrees

Ravichandran

Ravichandran’s conduct too was found to be satisfactory and he too had undertaken various studies, besides partaking in charitable purposes

Suthenthira Raja alias Santhan

The court noted that Raja too was suffering from various ailments.

“He has written various articles which have not only been published but have also received awards,” it also said.

Jaikumar

For Jaikumar, the court noted that his “conduct is satisfactory” and that “he is suffering from various illnesses.” Reportedly, Jaikumar too had obtained several degrees.

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What Else Did the SC Note?

Broadly the apex court observed: 

  • The Tamil Nadu government had recommended the release of all convicts. However, the Governor had not acted upon this recommendation

  • The convicts had spent more than three decades in prison, where their conduct was satisfactory

This is besides, as stated above, the applicability of the Perarivalan order in case of the convicts.
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But Why Was Perarivalan Released in the First Place?

File photo of AG Perarivalan.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ARPUTHAMAMMAL)

On 18 May 2021, amid a legal dispute over who the appropriate authority to decide the remission plea is, the Supreme Court had ordered the release of Perarivalan.

Perarivalan had been sentenced to death in 1998 (which was later commuted to life-imprisonment) for making the bomb that was used to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi (when he was 19).

At the time of his release Perarivalan was over 50-years-old.

The court also held that the Governor was bound by the State cabinet decision in matters of remission and the inordinate delay exhibited by the Governor in arriving at a decision had warranted the convict’s release.

To free Perarivalan, the top court invoked the extraordinary powers granted to it under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

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And What Does Article 142 Entail?

Article 142 entails enforcement of decrees and orders of the Supreme Court.

According to Article 142(1): "The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe.”

Thus, the Constitution, under Article 142, allows the Supreme Court to pass any order necessary to provide complete justice in any case or matter pending before it. This power can be invoked by the top court, in matters where the existing laws fail to provide a remedy appropriate enough for complete justice.

There is not just one type of case in which Article 142 is invoked. Right from environment related issues to human rights matters, and recently even to a tax-related case, the apex court has applied this unique and extraordinary power in a wide and diverse range of matters. The  Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case was one of the most famous cases in which Article 142 was invoked by the apex court.

Read more about Supreme Court’s special powers under Article 142 here.

ADVERTISEMENT

Legal Background

In 1998, 25 persons, convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, were sentenced to death by a TADA court. However, subsequently the apex court acquitted 19 of them, even as it upheld the death sentence of four.

Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2000, and in 2014, the Supreme Court did the same for  Perarivalan, Sriharan and Santhan.

Following the apex court’s order for Perarivalan’s release, Nalini and Ravichandran had filed pleas before the Madras High Court seeking the same. But the Madras High Court had dismissed their petition, stating:

“…the directions sought by the petitioner cannot be given by the court, as it otherwise does not have power similar to what the Apex Court has under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.”

Thereby, the convicts had moved the Supreme Court.

(With inputs from LiveLaw, The Indian Express and The News Minute.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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