Release Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts as same criteria should be extended to them, says lawyer.
The Centre rejected a mercy petition moved on behalf of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt in December 2015, just two months before he was released for “good conduct” by the prison authorities in Maharashtra, documents accessed by The Hindu show.
Mr. Dutt was released in February 2016, eight months ahead of the completion of his five-year prison term.
The Union Home Ministry, in its communication to the Home Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, on December 30, 2015, said: “The pardon petition filed by Justice (Retd.) Markandey Katju, Chairman, Press Council of India, and also 60 other Indian citizens on behalf of Sanjay Dutt alias Balraj Dutt at present lodged in the Yerwada central prison, Pune, Maharashtra, has since been duly considered and the same has been rejected by the competent authority.”
In a delayed reply to a query by A.G. Perarivalan, one of the seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, under the Right to Information Act, the Ministry has given details of convicts whose petitions seeking remission of sentences, including that of Mr. Dutt, were rejected.
Mr. Dutt, one of the convicts in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
The celebrity’s release came weeks after a five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Sriharan alias Murugan & others vs the Union of India ruled that the Centre was the appropriate authority to reduce sentences in cases of offences under the Arms Act. “The Yerwada prison authorities admitted in writing that the Central government was not consulted while granting remission of sentence to Mr. Dutt. But they did not disclose the fact that the Centre had rejected the mercy plea of the actor, which should have been a crucial point while considering his petition for premature release. We are not questioning or challenging the release of Mr. Dutt. Our argument is that the criteria for releasing him should be extended to other prisoners similarly placed,” K. Sivakumar, one of the lawyers for Perarivalan, said on Tuesday.
He said the release of Mr. Dutt was on the basis of provisions under the Maharashtra Prison Manual and not by invoking rules of the Criminal Procedure Code or Constitutional provisions. “Our appeal to the Tamil Nadu government and Governor is that there is no legal impediment whatsoever to release the seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case,” Mr. Sivakumar said.
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