Rajiv case: SC reserves verdict on states’ power to remit jail terms

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on constitutional issues arising out of Tamil Nadu government’s decision to set free the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, including the power of states to remit sentences.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu would authoritatively deal with questions raised by the smaller bench while staying the state government’s decision to set free seven convicts in the sensational case.

The bench, also comprising justices FMI Kalifulla, Pinaki Chandra Ghosh, Abhay Manohar Sapre and UU Lalit, heard for eleven days the arguments advanced by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for the Centre, and others including senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and Rakesh Dwivedi, representing V Sriharan alias Murugan, one of the seven convicts, and Tamil Nadu government respectively.
The court would be dealing with seven issues framed by the smaller bench on the scope of executives’ power of remission. It would decide whether state governments also have power of remission in cases where central agencies like CBI are the prosecutor.

“The issue of such a nature has been raised for the first time in this court, which has wide ramification in determining the scope of application of power of remission by the executives, both the Centre and the State.

“Accordingly, we refer this matter to the Constitution Bench to decide the issue pertaining to whether once power of remission under Article 72(by the President) or 161 (by Governor)or by this Court exercising Constitutional power under Article 32 is exercised, is there any scope for further consideration for remission by the executive,” the apex court had said while referring the matter to the Constitution bench.

It had said the Constitution bench would decide whether the sentence of a prisoner, whose death penalty has been commuted to life, can be remitted by the government. The bench would also decide whether life imprisonment meant jail term for rest of the life or a convict has a right to claim remission, it had said.