November 16, 2022

Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the release of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination convicts was the right decision. We also look at the record seizure of unaccounted cash and other items in Himachal Pradesh, among other news.


Was the release of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination convicts right?

After 31 years of imprisonment and punishment, the six convicts who were jailed in the assassination case of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi have been released. The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the release of these convicts on the recommendation of the Tamil Nadu government.

In May, the court ordered the release of AG Perarivalan, who was also sentenced to life imprisonment over the 1991 assassination of the former PM. On Friday, a bench of Justices BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna passed the order to release the convicts, including S. Nalini and her husband Murugan, a.k.a. Sri Haran.

Since these convicts were responsible for the assassination of a prominent former Prime Minister at the time, this is not a simple criminal case. The decision taken by the Supreme Court, while on the surface level simply a judicial one, has wide-reaching implications on the socio-political environment of the country. Understanding the various layers of this decision taken and the effect of this judgement on the judicial body of the country as well as Indian society is imperative.


Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on May 21, 1991. Both he and his mother, Indira Gandhi, were assassinated after making military interventions that a certain section of the population did not agree with, leading to extremist groups taking radical decisions.

Rajiv Gandhi intervened with the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka. While the initial goal of the IPKF was to assist the Lankan authority in maintaining order, their role soon turned oppressive, resulting in counter-insurgency and various violent clashes with the LTTE. Towards the end of the IPKF mission, the LTTE singled out Rajiv Gandhi as the one to blame. The possibility of his return in the 1991 elections as a Prime Minister, resulting in the redeployment of the IPKF, was not an option for the LTTE.  The decision to assassinate the former PM essentially rose out of this need to prevent him from regaining power.

The assassination occurred when Rajiv Gandhi arrived at Sriperumbudur at a rally site prior to the elections. There was a separation of male and female galleries. When Rajiv Gandhi was greeting them, a female suicide bomber named Dhanu came to touch his feet. While doing this, she detonated the bomb, effectively killing herself and assassinating Rajiv Gandhi as well. There were at least 14 other people who died in the blast.

Under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 26 of the 41 who were accused were sentenced to death. These included the 12 who died during the assassination or over the course of the investigation. The Supreme Court released 19 of them in 1999, while some members like Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan, and Nalini were ordered to be executed. Others, including Payas, Ravichandran, and Jayakumar, were sentenced to life in prison. Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2000, while that of the other three was commuted in 2014.

However, on 18 May this year, Perarivalan was granted bail by the apex court. As part of its decision, the court considered the convict’s prolonged incarceration period, his satisfactory behaviour in jail and during parole, his education while incarcerated, chronic ailments he had from his medical records, and the recommendation made by the State Cabinet to the Governor in 2018. Soon after, citing the same order in the Perarivalan case, the Supreme Court ordered the release of the six convicts.

VIEW: Dangerous implications for society

Many believe that the Supreme Court has deviated from its own orders by granting release to the six convicts. Earlier, the SC had agreed with the Centre that the convicts had already received one benefit through commutation of sentence from death by hanging to life imprisonment. The SC had also agreed with the Centre’s position in the earlier judgment that the state government was not competent to grant remission to convicts who were prosecuted under central laws, such as the CrPC, where the authority filing the case belonged to the Centre.

However, during the release of the convicts and Perarivalan, the apex court held that the State Cabinet’s advice was binding on the state governor, and the governor was bound by the view of the state cabinet. This contradictory decision made by the SC questions the judicial integrity and validity of the institution itself. Furthermore, since the decisions made are regarding the assassination of a former head of state, they may lead to dangerous consequences.

The Congress party on Friday said the apex court decision was bad in law, “totally unacceptable, completely erroneous”, and not in consonance with the spirit of India. The party also mentioned that it would use all legal remedies at its disposal to challenge the release of the convicts.

The DMK, which welcomed the apex court decision, is in power in Tamil Nadu. It has an alliance with Congress, but Chief Minister MK Stalin’s government fought hard for the release of the convicts. This will have a dire impact on the socio-political climate of the country, especially with regard to the alliances between DMK and congress.

Lastly, there has always been a disconnect, both culturally and politically, between the north and south of this country. A decision like this is likely to widen the divide.

COUNTERVIEW: Release of the convicts is acceptable

While some may think the decision by the SC is unconstitutional and unjust, the release of the perpetrators involved in the suicide bombing was long coming. While the direct perpetrators passed away, there were the accessories of crime who were held responsible. In terms of legality, the technicality of the law was taken into account while navigating the release of AG Perarivalan.

In terms of serving a sentence, the perpetrators have served about 31 years of a sentence. While campaigning for a sentence lighter than death row, they have served their time in jail. In the history of criminals in India, there have been far more heinous crimes that have received pardons. While the crime committed was politically motivated, so was the sentencing.

Lastly, the sentencing of any crime is done in the name of justice. It is not only justice to uphold the law, but it is also to bring about justice for the bereaved. In the case of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the Gandhi family delivered a statement stating that the perpetrators should be forgiven. This points to the fact that the release of the convicts is acceptable.

Reference Links:

  • Explained | Why Did SC Order Release of Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Convicts? – The Quint
  • OPINION | Release of Rajiv killers: Gandhi family faces a conundrum – IndiaTV
  • Wages of terrorism: Release of Rajiv killers raises key questions – Tribune India
  • A sense of an ending: On the release of Rajiv Gandhi case convicts – The Hindu
  • Was Supreme Court wrong to release Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination convicts? – Hindustan Times
  • Question of intent: Why Supreme Court didn’t find Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts guilty of terror – Indian Express
  • TN favours pre-mature release of Rajiv Gandhi case convicts, says governor bound by aid and advice – Economic Times
  • Tamil Nadu parties welcome release of Rajiv case convicts, Congress sees red – Times of India
  • SC has altered its previous views to free Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts – The Federal
  • The Labyrinthian Story of Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassination & the Convicts Who are Now Free – News18

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Pardoning the convicts of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was the right move.

b) Pardoning the convicts of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was the wrong move.


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Record seizure during the campaign (Himachal Pradesh) – With the recently concluded elections in the state, the police recovered ₹4.21 crores of unaccounted cash, nearly two lakh litres of illicit liquor, and a record amount of drugs. Officials said 232 flying squads and surveillance teams were formed to check for any illegal activities at 108 checkpoints along the borders. Special forces were deployed at 27 distilleries.

Why it matters: The Election Commission gave orders to states to take necessary action to prevent the use of illegal cash to influence voters. Before the Himachal polls, more than 300 IT officials and police personnel raided several locations across India. Among them were people involved in the mining and stone-crushing business in the state.

Fine for damage to mangroves (Andhra Pradesh) – The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the state government to pay ₹5 crores as interim compensation for damage caused to mangroves across 18 acres in the East Godavari district. Environmentalist Satyanarayana Bolisetty filed a writ petition citing violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011 and 2019. The NGT asked the government to remove the obstruction to ensure the free flow of seawater to sustain the mangroves.

Why it matters: The NGT formed a committee to study the issue and submit a report within six months. It prevented authorities from resuming the construction project in the disputed area classified as CRZ-I. The entire area covers 58 acres, and the tribunal asked the government to prepare a plan to convert it into a mangrove forest.

Free JEE & NEET coaching (Odisha) – Soon, government schools in the state will have free coaching to prepare for JEE and NEET. The government wants to replicate the Odisha Adarsh Vidyalaya format in government schools. They’ve already prepared a master plan. The new scheme will apply to class 11 and 12 students with free coaching. The initiative will be launched at 101 upgraded schools. Students with more than 90% in the matric exams will be eligible.

Why it matters: For poor students, the new initiative will be a boon as they don’t have to face the financial pressure of preparing for the exams. In rural and remote areas, it’s common for students to leave their studies after matric since they don’t have any Plus II colleges nearby. The government has identified some schools and upgraded them. Educationists say it’s important to recruit teachers to these schools, or else the plan will fail.

Coastal defence exercise (Goa) – Goa will see a two-day coastal defence exercise, the Sea-Vigil 22, with maritime authorities from the state participating in the pan-India programme. Authorities will test inter-agency cooperation between agencies like the Indian Navy, Coast Guard, and the Goa marine police. The exercise will happen along the entire 7,516 km coastline and involve coastal states.

Why it matters: The Sea Vigil is a build-up to the theatre-level readiness operational exercise (TROPEX) conducted every two years by the Indian Navy. The National Sea Vigil exercise was started in 2018 to validate maritime security measures put in place in the wake of the 26/11 attacks. This is the third edition of the exercise.

MoU with IIM Bangalore (Assam) – The Assam government signed an MoU with IIM Bangalore to bring about changes in healthcare, education, and child development. The agreement is for two years under the Chief Minister’s Young Professional Programme (CMYPP) to develop a pool of competent leaders to support the government. 75 professionals will form the CMYPP group. Two will be assigned to every 35 districts, and five will be at the state headquarters.

Why it matters: The CMYPP was developed to provide short-term support to district administrations to improve their efficiency and program delivery in healthcare, women’s issues, and child development. It’s the first time such an initiative has been conceived to support a district administration in certain sectors.


$121.5 million – The US Department of Transportation ordered Air India to pay $121.5 million as refunds for delays in providing refunds to passengers due to cancellations or changes in flights.