The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against allowing Tamil Nadu to release those convicted of assassinating former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, CNN-IBN reported. The bench ruled that the power to remit a life sentence lies with the Union of India and not with a particular state, and that Tamil Nadu would have to consult with the Centre before letting the convicts go. The state government led by J Jayalalithaa had earlier decided to remit the life sentence awarded to the seven convicts. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu was given the task of deciding the scope of the executive’s power of remission in such cases, especially those in which the Central Bureau of Investigation was the prosecutor.
After Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, three of the seven convicts had been awarded a death sentence. This was later commuted to a life term following several mercy pleas. The Tamil Nadu government had decided to release the three of them, and later the other four, but the court had stayed these decisions in 2014. The bench led by Dattu, whose term as CJI ends on Wednesday, was also given the task of deciding on other constitutional provisions, such as whether a convict whose sentence had been commuted to a life term from the death penalty should remain in jail for the rest of his life, or the stipulated 14 years.