One can’t help but hang their head in shame when the lead investigator and his team which probed the Rajiv Gandhi assassination speak about the latest events concerning this case. “It is sad that the every one has forgotten the killing of Rajiv Gandhi and 17 others in a dastardly manner. Instead the entire focus is who should claim credit for the release of these persons who have been convicted by the Supreme Court of India,” says D R Kathikeyan, the former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation who was the lead investigator in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
However speaking to legal experts one gets the view that the decision taken by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa is not final and requires the approval of the union government. Unless there is a nod from the union government, she cannot order the release the prisoners. In short it only means she has made a suggestion and it is the government of India which will take a final call on the matter.
D R Karthikeyan– If you ask me my reactions to what has just happened, then I really do not have any comment to make. But I would like to take you through what we went through and the efforts that we put in to solve the case.
The task of investigating the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case was given to me immediately after the incident. When I was handed over the case, I was told that it was a blind case and could well end up like the JFK murder case. There was no great deal of information that was forthcoming and even the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing did not have clues. I was also told that many had rejected to investigate this case since it was a blind case and a failure could result in a lot of embarrassment. I however decided to take up the case as I felt it was a duty to the nation. However my only condition was that there should be no politics in the investigation.
We worked 20 hours a day and not to mention that there was a threat from the LTTE as the case progressed. We conducted a number of raids, seized and examined over 100 thousand photographs, seized 500 video cassettes and several material related to the case. My team and I managed to collect all the evidence and the accused were prosecuted which was also upheld by the Supreme Court.
Now my team and I have done my duty and we ensured that the conviction went through with proper evidence in the highest court of the land. These convicts then filed a mercy petition and then went up to the Supreme Court stating that their petitions had not been decided upon for 11 long years. The Supreme Court commuted their death sentences to life based on this delay, but let us remember, the Supreme Court has not held them innocent.
What do I say now? Today the Tamil Nadu government has decided to seek their release and are awaiting a central government order on the matter. All I can say is I have done my duty and solved a blind case by collecting evidence from no man’s land. I have nothing personal against the killers of Rajiv Gandhi and I personally gain nothing whether they are hanged or not. At the end of it, I would point out that their sentences were commuted because of the inability of the government to decide on the matter sooner. Sad that everyone has forgotten the killing of Rajiv Gandhi and 17 others and each one is trying to take credit for their release. I just feel sad for my country.
R Shrikumar, member of Rajiv Gandhi investigation team and former police chief of Karnataka-
My understanding is that when a life sentence is handed out, it would mean that the person stays in jail for life. However remission is still part of the game and this is what has led to all this. The Supreme Court had made it clear that life convicts will remain in jail for life and not 14 years as it was construed by many.
You ask me if I am demoralised? Well all I can say is that our job was to investigate the matter and place the facts before the court, which we did. We did our job and these persons were convicted. In my opinion, I guess it is time to take to task the person who was responsible for this delay in the first place on the basis of which the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence to life. Let us see what happens in the next few days. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has taken a decision and it now up to the Central Government to consider it or not.
Justice Santhosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court- When the Supreme Court pronounces a verdict handing out a life sentence, it means that the persons stays in jail for life. It is not 14 years as many state governments would believe while handing out remissions.
Such decisions taken by the government is very unfair to the victim. People speak of human rights. Doesn’t the victim and his family have any human rights. Be it the murder of a VIP or an ordinary man, the government needs to be more sensitive to this issue.
I am not able to comprehend the logic behind this. The government of Tamil Nadu has suggested their release a day after the Supreme Court commuted their sentences to life. This is not done and the state ought to realise that if a crime is not punished properly then it is bound to repeat.
I was part of a judgment in the Supreme Court where we pulled up the Haryana government which was handing out remissions and letting people out on parole. When a crime is committed and the prosecution has worked so hard in convicting these accused, it is depressing to see the governments take such a lack lustre approach.
Uday Shetty, senior advocate- It is up to the centre now to decide on what is to be done in this case. The state does have the right to suggest a remission and by doing so the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has gone on to embarrass the centre. The Supreme Court was not wrong in its verdict. Let us not look at the stature of the victim here and treat this as anyother case. There are no separate laws for VIPs and the common man. The same verdict would have applied in the case of any other accused too. It is a fitting reply by the Supreme Court which has shown the government in very poor light. The government had 11 long years to decide and I wonder what they were doing. This should set a precedent for all future cases and the government ought to learn a lesson from this.