The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday questioned the delay by the erstwhile UPA government in deciding the mercy plea of Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, leading to the Supreme Court’s decision to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment.
“Why UPA-I and UPA-II did not hang the killers of Rajiv Gandhi in ten years of its rule?” the counsel for Tamil Nadu asked a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu as he trashed accusations that the Jayalalitha government had remitted the killers’ sentence for political gains.
The state made its submission while countering the Centre’s petition challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release the convicts within days of the SC order commuting the sentence. The Centre has said that the state could not have granted remission to the killers since the case was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the state government, said Tamil Nadu was wrongly accused of taking a “political, arbitrary and whimsical” decision.
“Politics is not the dirty world. All political parties said don’t hang them. People, all MLAs, opposition were against the hanging,” he told the court. He argued that the Centre, which took 10 years to decide on their mercy pleas, cannot accuse the state dispensation of arbitrariness.
“You listen, consider the mercy pleas, and do not hang them. Then you are merciful. When we do this, then it becomes arbitrary and whimsical,” Dwivedi argued.
The SC had on June 28 rejected the Centre’s curative petition against the court’s last year order commuting the death penalty of three convicts to life. The three convicts are lodged in a Vellore prison.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. Those granted remission are V Sriharan alias Murugan, Santhan, Robert Pious, Jaya Kumar, female convict Nalini, Ravichandran and Arivu.
Dwivedi said it cannot be the case that life is life without a ray of hope. “Living with hope means right to live with dignity,” he said.