Yesterday, The Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of Rajiv’s assassins to life sentences, citing inordinate delay in carrying out the sentence. The Bench comprising of the Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Ranjan Gogoi and Shivakirti Singh pointed out CRPC acts 432 and 433A for the state governments perusal and take an appropriate course of action. Within twenty four hours, the AIADMK led Tamil Nadu government held an extraordinary cabinet meeting and using the cited CRPC acts, announced the pardon and release of seven convicts in the case, including the three death row facing persons.
Pending the objections of Central government which should arrive in three days, the persons to be released hence are Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan – earlier death convicts; Nalini – life convict (commuted from death); Ravichandran, Robert Payas and V Jayakumar – life convicts.
By this super fast decision, Tamil nadu government has shown that this is just a poll related, Tamil identity issue for them. The extraordinary crime they have committed, the after effects of the crime, the international price India had to pay after that, how the history changed it’s course… none of it had any bearing on the state government’s decision. The contentious issue of death sentence in Indian judiciary is another debate. Releasing perpetrators of terrorist activity in the country, from within (Rajiv’s assassination), or from outside (Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasab, etc,), what is the message India is giving to the outside world about it’s handling of such issues? Kandahar Incident remains to haunt India over the years. The Bombay attacks, Parliament attack still shock the wits out of all Indians and governments. According to Death Penalty Research Project in National Law University, Delhi, there are about 470 prisoners awaiting death penalty over delayed decision on mercy petitions. If all of them are released and ONE, even ONE turns out to be another Masood Azhar or worse, who will be held responsible? What about loss of lives in such events? Who will answer to them?
The courts currently are pointing out to the need for speedy decisions on mercy petitions. Agreed, these are not issues to be politicizing about, but there are some inevitable evils of democracy, especially in a multi cultural vast country like India. Tamilians may not object to the present released convicts, but how should public from other parts understand this?
Simply because twenty, thirty years have passed, can ’84 Delhi riot accused or 2002 Gujarat riot perpetrators be pardoned entirely?