Agencies, New Delhi
The Supreme Court today stayed till further orders, the release of three convicts whose death sentence in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case was earlier this week commuted to life. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam also issued notices to Tamil Nadu government and directed Jayalalitha government to respond to the petitions filed by the Centre.
The will be taken up for further hearing on March 6. The Centre has moved the court for urgent hearing following the announcement by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha that the convicts would be ordered released if the Centre failed to grant remission to them within three days.
The apex court, on February 18, had commuted the death sentence of three convicts from death to life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate delay of 11 years by the then President Pratibha Devisingh Patil in disposing of the mercy petitions. She rejected their mercy petition in 2011.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in a suicide bomb attack by a female LTTE militant on May 21, 1991 in Tamil Nadu. Fourteen security personnel were also killed. The trial court had sentenced to death 26 convicts in the case in 1998. The Madras High Court, however, had maintained death sentence against four of them only. The apex court,also, said no convict in the case should be released without due process of law. The apex court, while allowing the petitions, also ruled that the mercy petitions should be disposed of within a reasonable period of time and should not be kept pending for years together.