NEW DELHI/CHENNAI: The Centre today said it will abide by Supreme Court verdict on the issue of freeing convicts, a day after Tamil Nadu government decided to remit the life sentence of all the seven killers of Rajiv Gandhi, a move opposed by the Congress.
The Supreme Court had on December 2, 2015 held that the Centre and not State government will have the "primacy" and that states cannot exercise "suo motu" the power to decide whether persons convicted in matters of the CBI or central agency should be released or not on remission, dealing a blow to efforts by the state government to release all the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Congress opposed the decision of the AIADMK government to remit the sentence of the convicts, calling it "very unfortunate". The state government had also sought the Centre's views on its move. Members of Congress and AIADMK also sparred in the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour over the state government's decision with Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharg demanding a response from Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was present in the House.
Singh while stating that the government is examining the decision, however, made it clear that abiding by Supreme Court's order on release of convicts is its Constitutional responsibility. "We have received a letter from the Tamil Nadu government yesterday and we are examining it. But I want to state about the accused that Supreme Court has given a verdict and to abide by its order is our constitutional responsibility, not only constitutional but also moral responsibility," Singh said.
Kharge protested against the decision, terming it as "very unfortunate". If such a practice to free such convicts is allowed, then other states might also make such demands, Kharge said, adding that such a move should not be allowed for the sake of the country's unity and integrity.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters that Congress would oppose the state government's decision. "We don't agree with the Tamil Nadu government. The Supreme Court has already rejected this plea of several organisations and there is no question of supporting such a move.
"As a party, we will definitely oppose this move of the Tamil Nadu government," he said. In a guarded response , BJP's Tamil Nadu unit said a "humane approach" should be taken on the incarceration period of the seven convicts, but it should be within the legal framework. Backing the state government's decision, DMK President M Karunanidhi asked the Centre to take steps for the release of the seven convicts.
The convicts are V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, A G Perarivalan alias Arivu, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Ravichandran and Nalini.