Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has no power to release the seven convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case as recommended by the state government and will have to consult the Centre as per law, officials said today.
Since the investigation into the assassination was carried out by a CBI-led team, the governor will have to consult with the central government before he takes a decision to remit or commute the sentence of the seven convicts, a Home Ministry official said.
The AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu on Sunday recommended to the governor to release the convicts, a move hailed by most political parties in the state.
The CBI-led Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA), probing the larger conspiracy aspect behind the assassination, a few months ago conveyed to the Supreme Court that the investigation into the case was "still open" and letters rogatory have been issued to different countries, including Sri Lanka, where some persons required to be investigated were currently residing.
Under the Section 435 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the state government will have to act only after consultation with the central government to remit or commute a sentence.
In August this year, the Centre had opposed in the Supreme Court the proposal of the Tamil Nadu government to release the seven convicts, saying that setting them free would set a very wrong precedent.
According to the Supreme Court verdict, the state government cannot remit sentence of any convict in cases probed by a central agency and the Centre's approval is mandatory for releasing the killers of Rajiv Gandhi as the case was probed by the CBI.
"The central government, in pursuance of section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, does not concur with the proposal of Tamil Nadu government contained in the communication letter dated March 2, 2016 for grant of further remission of sentence of these seven convicts," the government had said in its reply to the apex court.
In May the MDMA had informed a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the probe into the case was "still open" and letters rogatory have been issued to different countries, including Sri Lanka, where some persons required to be investigated were currently residing, another official.
"Under these circumstances, there is no material ground to alter the stand taken by the central government in the recent past," the official said.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated at a poll rally on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed in the explosion.
Set up in 1998, MDMA had probed the conspiracy aspect of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and is headed by a CBI official and comprises officers from IB, RAW and Revenue Intelligence and other agencies.
In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts -- A G Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and Nalini -- in the assassination case. The other three convicts are Jayakumar, Ravichandran and Robert Payas.
The apex court had in March this year dismissed a plea by Perarivalan seeking recall of the May 1999 verdict upholding his conviction. The charge against Perarivalan was that he had purchased two nine volt battery cells meant for detonating the bomb.