No convict serving a life sentence in the country can be released on remission, said a five-judge Constitution bench on Wednesday.
The bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha said its order would operate until it adjudicates Centre’s plea challenging Tamil Nadu government’s decision to remit life imprisonment of seven killers of Rajiv Gandhi without the government’s consent.
Expanding the petition’s scope, it directed all states to submit their response by July 22 — next date of hearing — to the contentions raised in it.
The dispute before the court is whether a state could grant remission suo motu even in cases prosecuted by a central investigating agency such as the CBI, which probed the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Under criminal procedure of code, state governments can remit sentence given to a convict based on good conduct while serving the jail term.
During a brief hearing in the court, NDA government counsel, solicitor general (SG) Ranjit Kumar supported UPA regime’s stand that Centre alone had the prerogative in deciding release of Rajiv Gandhi assassins.
The SG even questioned the recent SC judgment commuting death sentences to life on ground of inordinate delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the executive.
The Jayalalitha government decided to remit sentences of the convicts on February 19, a day after SC commuted death sentences of Murugan, Santhan and Arivu.
The others — Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran — were serving life imprisonment.
SC stayed the release on February 27 following Centre’s challenge before the court.