Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: State can suspend, remit sentences on its own, TN tells SC

 Tamil Nadu on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the state governments can on their own decide to suspend or remit sentences of convicts and the statutory powers to grant mercy to them is not dependent on conditions.

PTI| Last Updated: Aug 05, 2015, 19:46 PM IST

New Delhi: Tamil Nadu on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the state governments can on their own decide to suspend or remit sentences of convicts and the statutory powers to grant mercy to them is not dependent on conditions.

"We do not have to wait for any application. The state government can exercise the power under the CrPC if situation demands. Power to grant mercy cannot be based on conditions," the counsel for Tamil Nadu told a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing Tamil Nadu, referred to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure to buttress the point that the state government is empowered to take a call in certain cases and Centre should not tread into its territory.

"When any person has been sentenced to punishment for an offence, the appropriate Government may, at any time, without conditions or upon any conditions which the person sentenced accepts, suspend the execution of his sentence or remit the whole or any part of the punishment to which he has been sentenced," one of the parts of Section 432 of CrPC reads.

Dwivedi, dealing with the relevant legal provisions, said that the state government may require the opinion of the presiding judge of the court which had confirmed the sentence of the convict before taking a decision on remission pleas.

The words -- "may require" -- make the conditions optional, the lawyer told the bench which also comprised Justices F M I Kalifulla, Pinaki Chandra Ghosh, Abhay Manohar Sapre and U U Lalit.

The bench is going into the maintainability of the Centre's petition opposing Tamil Nadu government's decision to set free the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case after remitting their life sentences

Besides the maintainability of the plea, the bench would also decide whether the sentence of a prisoner, whose death penalty has been commuted to life, can be remitted by the state government.

It would also decide whether life term meant jail term for rest of the life or a convict has a right to claim remission.

Earlier, Tamil Nadu government had trashed accusations that its decision to release seven Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts was "political and arbitrary".