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What sense does freeing Rajiv Gandhi's killers make to the common Indian?

Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India was killed by a suicide bomber in Sriperubalam in Tamil Nadu in 1991.
The LTTE attack was seen as a means to thwart Rajiv Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister and then perpetuating the Indian peace Keeping Force role in the island nation, that was detrimental to the interest of the LTTE.

The withdrawal of Rajiv Gandhi's SPG security cover after the central government fell in 1989, was one of the reasons attributed to the success of the LTTE suicide bombers.
The Supreme Court gave four of the perpetrators of the crime life sentence and other four got death penalty. The death penalty of Nalini was commuted to life sentence, on the request of Sonia Gandhi.

Recently the Supreme Court commuted the death penalty of the other three – Murugan, Ariuvu, Santham – to life sentence.
This was done because of the inordinate delay by the executive in disposing off their mercy petitions.
The commutation to life sentence holds a good precedent and falls in line with more than 140 countries that have abolished death sentence. Thus in one senses it is a major step in upholding the ethical values and against corporal punishment.

However in a bit of haste, the Tamil Nadu government announced its decision to free all the seven convicts as they have served more than 21 years in jail. The state executive, justifying its decision, cited the abrogation of Fundamental Rights of the convicts, particularly, Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty), as the grounds of the order. Though this may seem to herald a notion of safety for the common Indian who would be ensured of principles of Natural Justice in any conviction, this decision of the State Government was seen as politically motivated, right on the heels of 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The same party which had gained power on the plea for punishment the Rajiv Gandhi's killers, is now supporting their freedom. This made the common people suspect the decision as pursuing to vote bank politics, even at the expense of such sensitive matter like this.

The order of the State Government was challenged by the Centre. This was done under the Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code that mandates that the order of remission should come from the Union Government in case the matter relates to anything under the jurisdiction of Union.

As the investigation was done by the CBI, therefore this section holds importance. The Supreme Court has upheld the Centre's reservation as correct and has stayed the State Government's decision.

This signifies a major achievement for the people of India. What could we have said to our future generation if we have freed the assassins of the one of the beloved Prime Minister of India? If the elite are denied justice then where would the common man may go.

We have moved towards an era seeking removal of capital punishment, but that does not mean we let the criminals go scot free. Capital punishment may be against human rights, but freedom of criminals, would be a step towards perpetrating crime in the society.

If allowed to have it way, the decision of freeing the Rajiv Gandhi's assassins would surely have been unfortunate. Thankfully, after the Supreme Court's intervention the national feeling has won over regional sentiments.

Palak Goel

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