Rajiv Gandhi’s killers & Afzal Guru – two faces of justice

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, November 14: Convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination deserved no less than deaths, but some of them are mocking at the Indian State by giving television bytes and speaking of flying to London. While Tamil Nadu-based politicians are exercising excessive weight in subverting the delivery of justice, it could be legitimate if the same treatment was meted out for those from Jammu and Kashmir who had been hanged for carrying out terror attacks in the country.

There cannot be two laws in one country, one for Tamil Nadu and another for Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court will need to answer why Afzal Guru was hanged, while Nalini Sriharan would be flying to London. It has been established that Sriharan had gone shopping with Kalaivani Rajaratnam alias Dhanu. She was the key conspirator in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Dhanu was the human bomb. Sriharan had bought the salwar-kurta that Dhanu had worn, while she had also forged documents to gain access to Rajiv Gandhi.

The Supreme Court bench of Justices B. R. Gavai and B. V. Nagarathna needs to explain how the crimes of Sriharan was less heinous than Afzal Guru. The bench ordered the release the six remaining convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Along with the former Prime Minister, 15 others had met with brutal and violent deaths.

Indeed, there is an international aspect to the whole issue of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi not going to the gallows. Former President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa had a strong hand in ensuring that the killers of the former Prime Minister walked free of the jails.

“You cannot judge it (release of the convicts) on domestic criteria only. You have to remember the background of the Sri Lankan government wiping out Tamil extremism violently and indiscriminately,” said one of the former foreign secretaries while speaking to The Raisina Hills.

The former diplomat, who had dealt with the Sri Lankan issue, stated that “India giving assistance for Tamil resettlement in Sri Lanka is one result and the other is support for the release of these people (convicts) in Tamil Nadu”. It may be noted that while the Centre had opposed the pleas of the convicts in the Supreme Court, the apex court largely gave the weightage to the arguments of the Tamil Nadu government. The Centre, however, is seen not to have strongly opposed the pleas, which is again under scanner for not yet filing the review petition in the Supreme Court for taking the case in a larger bench.

The Supreme Court exercised the special power under Article 142 of the Constitution to order the release of six convicts. Issues that the Supreme Court order for the release confront are – convicts in a case involving terror attack that amounts to violation of the national sovereignty have been released for their good conducts in jails and health grounds; right to equality of similar convicts; narrow political considerations outweighing larger fairness of justice and so on.

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