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Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi & Remission of Sentence

In News

  • The Supreme Court recently set free all the six convicts serving life terms for the assassination in 1991 of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
    • The six convicts are: Nalini, Ravichandran, Jayakumar, Suthenthiraraja @ Santhan, Murugan and Robert Pius.

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi

  • The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, occurred as a result of a suicide bombing in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, India on 21 May 1991.
    • At least 14 others, in addition to Rajiv Gandhi, were killed.
  • It was carried out by members of the Sri Lankan Tamil separatist organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the National Council of Khalistan (NCK) and the Khalistan Liberation Force.

More about the news

  • Supreme Court’s observations:
    • The bench noted that the six had spent over three decades in jail in the case. 
    • The court said that their conduct was satisfactory in this period during which they had pursued studies as well. 
      • On Nalini, the court took into account that she was a woman.
    • Release of another convict:
      • The Supreme Court had also ordered the release of AG Perarivalan, one of the life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
      • He was granted premature release by the apex court in exercise of its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution

Matter of remission of sentence

  • Can the Governor send the state government’s recommendation on remission to the President?
    • Supreme Court’s observations:
      • The Supreme Court disapproved of the Governor sending the state government’s recommendation to the President.
        • It said at the time that “no provision under the Constitution has been pointed out to us nor any satisfactory response tendered as to the source of the Governor’s power to refer a recommendation made by the State Cabinet to the President of India”. 
        • It also said that the Governor’s “action is contrary to the Constitutional scheme”.
      • The advice of the State Cabinet is binding on the Governor in matters relating to commutation/remission of sentences under Article 161
  • Who is the “appropriate government” to decide on remission of sentence?
    • Supreme Court in a 2014 decision (Union of India vs Sriharan):
      • The court had also refused to accept the Centre’s argument that the “appropriate government” to decide on remission of sentence in matters to which the executive power of the Union extends is the Union Government
        • This is “incorrect”, according to the judgment.
      • Court had underlined that while both the state and Centre had the power to make laws. 
        • The Union Government’s power will take precedence only if “executive power had been expressly conferred on the Union under the Constitution or the law made by the Parliament, failing which the executive power of the State remained intact.
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