NEW DELHI: Striking off the decision taken by the Tamil Nadu Government to commute the life imprisonment terms awarded to the convicts of the ‘Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case’, the Supreme court has ruled that the State Government cannot unilaterally commute the life terms of the convicts and release them without the concurrence of the Central Government.
Last year, on February 18th, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Ms Jayalalithaa has decided to commute the life imprisonment terms of the three main convicts Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan, on the ground that a decision over their mercy petition has not been taken since 11 years, during the tenure of various presidents.
However, the Central Government opposed the move taken by the Tamil Nadu State Government and swiftly moved the Supreme court of India, challenging the release of the convicts. The Central Government’s main argument was that the Tamil Nadu Government cannot exercise the power unilaterally, as the case was investigated by the CBI, a Central investigating agency.
It also argued that the sentence awarded to the convicts cannot be remitted as it involved the killing of the former Prime Minister of India and hence, requested the Supreme Court to treat it as an exceptional case.
The Supreme Court’s special constitution bench comprising of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justices F M I Kalifulla, P C Ghose, A M Sapre and U U Lalit , unanimously ruled that as per the criminal procedure code laid under Section 435(1) of the constitution, the State Government will have to consult the Union Government before remitting the sentence awarded to the convicts in cases investigated by the central investigating agencies.
The court said: “It has now come to stay that when in exceptional cases, death penalty is altered as life sentence, it would only mean rest of one’s life-span.”
The apex court has also ordered the State governments on not to exercise the power of remitting a sentence before taking the opinion of the court which has convicted the person in question, the TOI reported.