With the Tamil Nadu government making a renewed effort to obtain the release of the seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case through a Cabinet recommendation to the Governor, legal experts differed on the scope of his power.
While a senior advocate is of the opinion that any decision by the Governor would have to be reaffirmed by the President, a former Chief Justice of a High Court said the Governor had separate powers to decide the matter.
‘State has no say’
Senior advocate Sudhir Nandrajog told The Hindu : “Since this is a CBI prosecution and not a State prosecution, the State has no say. Therefore, even after the State government recommends and the Governor takes a decision to release the convicts, there still needs to be reaffirmation by the Centre.”
“Which basically means that it will go back to the President again for confirmation,” Mr. Nandrajog explained.
Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Justice R.S. Sodhi, said it was too early to comment on the issue.
But, he said that the Governor had separate powers to decide on mercy pleas such as the one in question here.
“However, what he does in exercise of his power is open to him to decide. Let’s wait for him to decide on the issue,” Justice Sodhi said.
Apart from A.G. Perarivalan, other convicts — Nalini, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Sriharan alias Murugan (Nalini’s husband), Robert Payas, S. Jayakumar alias Jayakumaran, and Ravichandran alias Ravi — have been in jail for over 27 years.
All of them had pleaded to the Governor and the State government for remission of their sentence.
Senior advocate Nidhesh Gupta said, “The Supreme Court, in its recent order of September 6, 2018, only stated that the authority concerned will be at liberty to apply its mind under Article 161 of the Constitution.”
“The said order is in consonance with the law laid down by a Constitution Bench of the Apex Court in V. Sriharan case, where it has been held that the convict has a right to have his case considered and decided,” Mr. Gupta said, adding that, “any decision taken under Article 161 will be amenable to judicial review.”
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