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Rajiv case: Supreme Court restrains Tamil Nadu from releasing 4 convicts

New Delhi, Feb 27 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Tamil Nadu government letting off four convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, after having stayed the release of three other convicts whose death sentences it had commuted.

A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam directed the state government to maintain status quo and said it will hear on March 6 the Union government's plea against the state government's decision to release all seven prisoners undergoing life imprisonment.

The Tamil Nadu government had said the Centre’s petition is not maintainable as it cannot file a writ in the case.

It asked as to why the Centre rushed to the apex court instead of replying to the state government's letter seeking the stand of the Union government on the release of the prisoners.

“Is the Centre rushing or you are rushing?,” the bench questioned the state government and made it clear that it will first consider the maintainability of the Centre's petition before going into its merits.

“You take it from us that we would consider the maintainability issue first,” it said, adding, “We would solve the problem amicably.”

The bench said that every state must be aware about the procedure to be followed for the release of prisoners.

Shortly after the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Arivu to life imprisonment, on February 18, the state had ordered their release.

On February 20, the apex court stayed the release of the three convicts citing procedural lapses on the part of the state government on the decision to release them.

After this, the Union government had moved its petition seeking a stay on the release of convicts Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.