Rajiv Gandhi Murder: Cong tells Govt not to use ‘Friends’ to Release ‘Terrorists’by Opinion Express September 12, 2018 0 comments
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “Will BJP now with help of friend AIADMK and their appointed governor release terrorists who murdered former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and others along with him?”
It is astonishing and says a lot about the level of ethnic politics in India that the Tamil Nadu Government is hell-bent on seeking a premature release of seven convicts who are currently serving a life term for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Four years after the State Government first tried — and failed, given the UPA-led Centre’s objections — to secure the premature release of convicts when the Supreme Court commuted their death penalty to life imprisonment, given the Presidential delay in deciding on their mercy petitions, the ruling AIADMK is at it again. Quoting Article 161 of the Constitution that gives clemency powers to the Governor to take a call on the issue, the State Government acting through the Cabinet has now recommended that the Governor immediately release the convicts. Given that the NDA-led Centre has been consistent in opposing any such move and the Congress too has made its stand clear that it does not support the early release of those convicted of killing the former Prime Minister, while both the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu are in favour of an early release, the perception is the latter is playing the worst kind of ethnic politics on the issue. Life ought to mean life for those involved in such a heinous crime regardless of the ethnic origin of the convicts. The Congress has done well to draw a distinction between Sonia, Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi having decided at a personal level as a family to forgive the convicts and the stand of the party which is that there can be no mercy for the killers. The Governor is bound by the advice of the Cabinet in normal circumstances. It, however, must be remembered that he is the representative of the President of India, i.e. the Centre, in the State and is duty-bound on such a sensitive issue to apply his mind before deciding on whether to accept or reject the recommendation of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet in the present instance. There is a clear case for the Governor to refer the matter to the Centre for its views too; not only due to the sensitivity of the matter and the unhealthy precedent it may set if the convicts are released but also because the prosecuting agency in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case was the CBI, a central investigative agency.
To put things in perspective, when the apex court commuted the death sentences of all seven convicts to life imprisonment in 2014, the then J Jayalalithaa Government in Tamil Nadu showed unseemly haste, with Assembly elections approaching, to seek the release of the convicts the very next day after the Supreme Court’s decision. On the objection of the then Congress-led UPA Government, the top court referred the matter to a Constitution Bench which weighed the scales and ruled that the decision to remit or not should solely rest with the Centre or the investigative agency. This time around, however, the State has rolled the ball down to the Governor’s court. Governor Banwarilal Purohit must do the right thing.
Courtesy: The Pioneer