The Centre on Thursday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the early release of six convicts in the assassination case of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, PTI reported.

In its petition, the Centre contended that the Supreme Court passed the order without hearing its side.

On November 11, the top court had granted early release to convicts Nalini Sriharan, Robert Pais, Ravichandran, Suthenthira Raja, Shriharan alias Murugan and Jaikumar. All of them were serving life sentences.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna held that the order passed to release another convict AG Perarivalan was applicable to the six other convicts also. Perarivalan had been released in May.

The court had also noted that the Tamil Nadu government had recommended the release of the convicts, but that the governor did not act on the recommendation. The judges observed that the convicts had spent more than three decades behind bars, and that their behaviour in prison was satisfactory.

In the review petition filed on Thursday, the Centre said the convicts had not made the Union of India a respondent in their plea despite it being a “necessary and proper party” in the matter, reported The Indian Express.

“…from the record, it appears that no application was ever filed by the petitioners formally impleading Union of India as party respondent,” the Centre said. “This procedural lapse on the part of the petitioners resulted in non-participation of Union of India in subsequent hearings of the case.”

The Centre also challenged the Supreme Court’s reliance on its verdict to release Perarivalan, saying it was not applicable to the remaining convicts as the majority of them were foreign citizens and had a more serious role in the case.

“Granting remission to terrorist of foreign nation, who had been duly convicted in accordance with the law of land for gruesome offence of assassinating the former prime minister of the country, is a matter which has international ramification and therefore falls squarely within the sovereign powers of the Union of India,” the review petition said, according to PTI.

Meanwhile, the Congress criticised the review petition filed by the Centre, saying that it was “a case of belated wisdom”.

“BJP government has been blatantly apathetic towards this case,” Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal wrote in a tweet. “What’s the point in locking the door after the horse has bolted!”

Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on May 21, 1991, when an operative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam detonated her RDX-laden belt.

The LTTE was seeking revenge for the Indian government’s decision to send troops to Sri Lanka to help the island nation fight Tamil separatists.

In 1998, a court had sentenced 26 people to death for the conspiracy to kill the former prime minister.

A year later, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of only four of them – Nalini Sriharan, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. In 2000, Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.