Don’t laud the release of Rajiv case convicts
Their release is no less shameful than the release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists. Now that they are out, they should make the most of it, and live out their lives — preferably in silence, and away from the public eye
A former Prime Minister of a country is assassinated in a terror attack on Indian soil; 16 others are also killed. The investigation moves swiftly, and seven years after the attack, 26 are sentenced to death for their involvement in the killing and the conspiracy behind it. But the sentence is never carried out, largely because of pending mercy petitions. In 1999, the Supreme Court (SC) acquits 19 people, sentences four to death and the rest to life in jail. By 2014, the death sentences of the remaining convicts have been commuted to life.
Time passes. In 2018, both mainstream Dravidian parties support the release of the convicts. The then All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government passes a resolution to the effect. The governor sits on it, then forwards it to the President, but the SC rules in 2021, based on a plea by one of the convicts, that the governor is the person who has to take a call — and based on the advice from the council of ministers. The convict is released. A few months later, following a plea from the other convicts, they, too, are released. So far, so good — despite the rather charitable view taken by the state and the judiciary on people involved in a crime against the sovereignty of the country.
But the convicts are welcomed as if they are conquering warriors. In interviews, some profess their innocence or offer mitigating circumstances that forced their hand. This is just not on. But for inexplicable delays, the generosity of the law, and the state's political compulsions, these people would have been executed decades ago. And they should have been. Their release is no less shameful than the release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists. Now that they are out, they should make the most of it and live out their lives — preferably in silence and away from the public eye.