Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-4-25 16:16:12
India's Supreme Court Friday refused to release seven assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi from prison, and referred the case to a five-judge Constitution Bench.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, also framed seven questions to be addressed by the Constitution Bench, including whether after commutation of the death sentence into life in jail, they can be released, and whether the central government or the Tamil Nadu government can do so.
The seven assassins are currently lodged in a jail in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and each has spent more than 20 years in prison.
In February, the Supreme Court had commuted the death sentences of three of the convicts -- Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan -- who were on death row, citing an inordinate delay in disposing of their mercy petitions by the Indian president.
The other four assassins in the case have been serving life imprisonment.
After the apex court ruling, Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa had said all the seven would be released, compelling the central government to challenge the order.
"The release of the killers of a former prime minister of India and our great leader, as well as several other innocent Indians, would be contrary to all principles of justice," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said in response to Jayalalithaa's announcement.
Rajiv Gandhi, who was India's prime minister from 1984 to 1989, was killed by Dhanu, a Sri Lankan suicide bomber from the now- defunct Tamil Tigers, during an election rally at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991.
Some 26 people were convicted in the case in 1998 by a special court which sentenced all of them to death. But, in 1999, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of four -- Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini.
However, Nalini's death sentence was commuted to life in jail, following the intervention of Rajiv Gandhi's widow and ruling Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, as she gave birth to a girl in jail.
Source: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/856820.shtml#.U2PuGfmSwrU [accessed on 2nd May 2014]]