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Centre examining TN letter on remittance of Rajiv assassins

Centre examining TN letter on remittance of Rajiv assassins
The Centre on Thursday said that it was examining the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to remit the sentence of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, but made it clear that abiding by the Supreme Court’s order on the issue is its Constitutional responsibility.

“We received a letter from the Tamil Nadu government yesterday and are examining it. But I want to state about the accused that the Supreme Court has given a verdict and to abide by its order is our constitutional responsibility, not only constitutional but also moral responsibility,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour.

Singh’s statement comes a day after the Tamil Nadu government said that it has decided to remit the sentence of life imprisonment of all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and release them and sought the Centre’s views on the move.

In a letter to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi on Thursday, Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan said the state government has received petitions from the seven convicts, requesting it to release them as they have spent more than 20 years in prison.

The convicts are V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Ravichandran and Nalini. All seven were convicted by a special TADA court for their role in the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991, during a poll rally at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court had on December 2, 2015, said that the Centre would decide if Rajiv Gandhi’s killers should be released or not, holding that states cannot exercise “suo motu” the power to grant remission without any specific plea from convicts.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said that Congress would oppose the state government’s decision. “We don’t agree with the Tamil Nadu government. The Supreme Court has already rejected this plea of several organisations and there is no question of supporting such a move. As a party, we will definitely oppose this move of the Tamil Nadu government,” he said.

Members of the Congress and AIADMK members had a heated argument in the Lok Sabha over the issue.

As soon as the House met for the day, Congress members said it was an important issue relating to the assassination of a former Prime Minister and such a move should not be allowed.

AIADMK members started protesting against the Congress members’ demands and later rushed to the Well. 

Amid the protests, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the issue can be taken up after the Question Hour. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to speak on the issue briefly during the Question Hour. Kharge protested against the Tamil Nadu government’s decision, terming it as “very unfortunate”.

If such a practice to free such convicts is allowed, then other states might also make such demands, Kharge said, adding that such a move should not be allowed for the sake of the country’s unity and integrity. He also demanded a response from Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was present in the House.
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