Is There Merit in TN Govt’s Plea to Free Rajiv Gandhi’s Killers? 

Average Tamil is convinced that convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case should not be freed, writes RK Raghavan.

Published
Opinion
4 min read
For the second time in two years, Centre rejects Tamil Nadu government’s plea seeking release of Rajiv killers. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
.......we find no scope to apply the concept of ray of hope to come for the rescue of such hardened, heartless offenders, which if considered in their favour will only result in misplaced sympathy and again will not be in the interest of the society.
Supreme Court on 2 December 2015 in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case

The Central government has for the second time rejected the Tamil Nadu government’s request that the seven convicts – including the sole woman Nalini – in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case be freed by remitting the remainder of their sentences. In my view, New Delhi was right in putting its foot down.

I often get worked up over the continued plea for mercy in favour of the seven who are still languishing in Tamil Nadu jails. This is because, in addition to the legal position as outlined by the apex court in its ruling of 2 December 2015, my own emotions persuade me to believe that they do not deserve any sympathy.

Having been at the gory scene in Sriperumbudur and stood in vigilance there for the whole night of 21 May 1991 and part of the next day, in the ruins and amidst the 20 bodies, I cannot reconcile myself to a situation where the seven guilty persons walk free.


Nalini, life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. (Photo Courtesy: <i>The News Minute</i>)
Nalini, life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)
Snapshot

Chronology of the Case

  • 21 May 1991: Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassinated at an election rally by an LTTE suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur.
  • 11 May 1999: Supreme Court sentences four, including Nalini to death, commutes death sentence of other three.
  • 2 December 2015: Supreme Court says Centre will decide whether Rajiv killers will be freed or not.
  • 20 April 2016: Centre rejects the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to release the seven convicts.

Horrific Instance of Violence

This is one case where I am convinced that a good man like Rajiv did not deserve the kind of violence inflicted on him. I had the dreadful duty of identifying his body and trying to gather his mortal remains. Memories of the cruelty perpetrated directly on him and indirectly on 20 others who were killed that night still haunt me. If at all I recovered from the trauma thereafter – possibly over the next five years – I would attribute it solely to the Almighty’s mercies.

I am a fierce opponent of the death penalty. In spite of my strong views on Rajiv’s killers, I am happy they were spared the extreme punishment.

Top Court on the Brutality of the Crime

There is without doubt a mix of politics and humanity in the AIADMK government’s decision to remit the sentences, a move which was undone by the SC ruling that in a case investigated by the CBI, the Centre had to be consulted.

...in those situations covered by sub-clauses (a) to (c) of Section 435(1) falling within the jurisdiction of the Central Government it will assume primacy and consequently the process of ‘‘Consultation’’ in reality be held as the requirement of ‘‘Concurrence’’ .
SC in its order of 2 December 2015

I am also persuaded by another of the apex court’s arguments – as forcefully put down by the eminent Justice Kalifulla, who wrote the order on behalf of the Bench – that the crime situation in the country was worsening, where law abiding citizens lived in fear and the lawless roamed with impunity.

While on the one side peace-loving citizens who are in the majority are solely concerned with their peaceful existence by following the rule of law and aspire to thrive in the society anticipating every protection and support from the governance of the state and its administration, it is common knowledge, as days pass on  it is a big question mark whether one will be able to lead a normal peaceful life without being hindered at the hands of such unlawful elements, who enjoy in many cases the support of very many highly placed persons.  
Justice Kalifulla
File picture of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. (Photo: Reuters)
File picture of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. (Photo: Reuters)

Do the Conspirators Deserve Sympathy?

Jayalalithaa has been consistent in her opposition to the LTTE and unequivocal condemnation of the assassination right from the start. I cannot say the same of many of her opponents, especially the DMK. Against this backdrop, the state Congress’ ‘dangerous liaison’ with the DMK is inexplicable, and the Congress High Command’s acquiescence of it even queerer.

The average Tamil is convinced that the conspirators who are being held in prison deserve no sympathy. It is the fringe elements who call themselves by different names who continue to stoke the fire despite little public support. We are therefore living in strange times, when there is even this modicum of support to those who deliberately killed a popular democratically endorsed leader. The assassination is a blot in the fair name of a state which had been known for its culture and humanity.

(The writer is a former CBI Director)

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