India’s top court yesterday blocked the release of three of former premier Rajiv Gandhi’s killers after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denounced their freeing as “contrary to all principles of justice”.
They were among seven Tamil extremists who had been due to walk free from prison by this weekend after the chief minister of Tamil Nadu state on Wednesday ordered their release, sparking political uproar.
Announcing legal action against the move, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh staunchly rejected any right to freedom, saying Gandhi’s 1991 assassination by a suicide bomber was an attack on the nation’s soul.
“The assassination of Shri (honorific) Rajiv Gandhi was an attack on the soul of India,” Singh said in a statement. “No government or party should be soft in our fight against terrorism,” he added. “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.”
The court order
After agreeing to an urgent hearing yesterday a Supreme Court bench ordered the Tamil Nadu government to maintain the “status quo” for three of the seven until it had a chance to examine the issue thoroughly.
The bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said although Tamil Nadu in the country’s south had the right to release the prisoners, it must follow proper procedures. The court said the Congress-led national government could file a fresh petition for the remaining four who are serving life sentences, although it was unclear if this could halt their release by Friday.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa had ordered the seven’s release one day after the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence handed down on three convicted over their role in the assassination in her state.