The Centre on Thursday moved the Supreme Court seeking a review of its order prematurely releasing six convicts serving life imprisonment for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
The Union government contended that the court did not afford it adequate opportunity of hearing before ordering the immediate release of the convicts.
The government said the convicts had not made the Union a respondent in the Supreme Court despite being a “necessary and proper party” in the litigation.
“This procedural lapse on the part of the petitioners resulted in non-participation of Union of India in subsequent hearings of the case… absence of Union of India’s assistance to the Supreme Court while adjudication of the matter has resulted into admitted and glaring breach of principles of natural justice and has, in fact, resulted in the miscarriage of justice,” the Centre argued.
The government further argued that it was “extremely crucial” to highlight that out of the six convicts who were granted remission, four were Sri Lankan nationals.
It said, “Granting remission to terrorists of a foreign nation, who had been duly convicted in accordance with the law of the land for the gruesome offence of assassinating a former Prime Minister of the country, was a matter which had international ramifications and therefore fell squarely within the sovereign powers of the Union of India.”
“In such a sensitive matter the assistance of Union of India was of paramount importance as the matter has huge repercussions on the public order, peace, tranquility and criminal justice system of the country,” the Centre argued.
It contended that the “principles of natural justice, the aim of which is to secure justice or to put it negatively to prevent miscarriage of justice have been grossly compromised by the order of November 11”.
On November 11, the apex court ordered the release of Nalini, Ravichandran, Jayakumar, Suthenthiraraja alias Santhan, Murugan and Robert Payas.
A Bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and B.V. Nagarathna had noted that the Tamil Nadu State Cabinet had recommended their premature release to the Governor in September 2018. The Governor, instead of taking a call, had passed on their files to the Centre. The Governor was bound by the advice of the Cabinet in cases of murder as their convictions under under the now lapsed Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act was set aside by the apex court.
The Bench had referred to the case of their former co-convict A.G. Perarivalan, who was granted premature release by the apex court on May 18 in exercise of its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.
The May judgment had concluded that the State of Tamil Nadu, and not the Union, had exclusive power to recommend remission in the case.
Shortly after the release of Perarivalan, Nalini and Ravichandran had approached the apex court for parity. The other four convicts had joined in by filing separate applications in the Supreme Court.
Ordering them to be “set at liberty forthwith”, Justices Gavai and Nagarathna had also taken into account that each of the six convicts had individually exhibited satisfactory conduct during their long incarceration. They had earned postgraduate degrees and diplomas while serving their sentence.