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Make public all remission orders of life convicts: CIC on Rajiv assassin’s plea

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New Delhi, Aug 19: The orders granting or denying remission to life term convicts post 2000 should be put on the Union Home Ministry website, the CIC has said on a petition by a Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict.

The Central Information Commission, the top appellate authority in the matters pertaining to the Right to Information Act, held that it is in public interest that people get to know as to why a convict is being released.

Hearing the petition filed by A G Perarivalan, a convict in the former prime minister’s assassination case, Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad directed the Home Ministry public information commissioner to place all orders granting or denying remission to life convicts from the year 2000 onwards on the website of the MHA.

In addition to the copy of orders, Perarivalan, through his RTI application, had also sought to know if any rules have been framed by the Centre on granting remission as directed by the Supreme Court.

He had also sought the copies of communication issued by the Centre to the state governments refraining them from granting remission.

The Home Ministry did not give a clear response to Perarivalan’s queries, stating the matter was “sub-judice”. It, however, said 20 death sentences have been commuted to life terms by the President between 2010 and 2015.

Perarivalan, whose application for remission of sentence was earlier rejected by the Centre, approached the Commission challenging the reply.

In his order, Azad noted, “The PIO failed to apply his mind and sought a blanket refuge under the guise of the matter being sub-judice. It is well settled that that mere pendency of a matter before a Court of Law does not render all information espousing the matter as exempted under the RTI Act,”

Terming the reply as “bad in law”, Azad said there was no specific direction from the Supreme Court not to disclose such information.

He said all that Perarivalan sought to know was the documented policy and rules governing the remission of convicts in light of a judicial pronouncement by the Supreme Court in a case dealing with the remission of the sentence of Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts by the Tamil Nadu government.

“The Commission hastens to clarify that the right of appellant to know the rules governing him has no impact on any judicial verdict. Rather, it is in larger public interest that such rules, if in existence, may be widely circulated,” he said.

On the demand of making public remission orders issued by the Centre for convicts across India, Azad noted the public information officer has not taken a position in this regard, but in hindsight opposed the disclosure of the same.

He said the grant of remission is an exercise of a statutory power under CrPC which acknowledges the power of the executive to grant remission to convicted persons after due consideration by the government.

“As per the criminal jurisprudence, a crime besides being a personal wrong against the victim is also a wrong against the society at large. That is why, the prosecution in such penal offences is led by the State on behalf of the Society at large,” he said.

Azad said the judgement passed by a court in a criminal matter is a public document since the interest of general public is involved and using the same analogy it is again in public interest for people to know as to why a convict is being released.

The Commission finds no reason to hold a remission order as classified and guarding the same from public vigil, he said, adding there was no impediment if the remission orders are made public.

“The Commission in exercise of powers under section 19(8) of the RTI Act directs the PIO MHA to place all orders granting or denying remission to various life convicts orders passed from the year 2000 onwards…on the web site of MHA,” he said.

Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was blown to pieces by a suicide squad of LTTE on May 21, 1991 during his election campaign in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court on February 18, 2014 had commuted death sentence of convicts to life term on the grounds of delay in deciding their mercy petitions by the government.

Following the Supreme Court order, the Tamil Nadu government on February 19, 2014 had proposed to commute the life terms of all seven convicts including Perarivalan.

The move was rejected by the apex court as the decision was not taken in consultation with the Centre.

A fresh proposal was moved by the Tamil Nadu government in 2016 but the Centre opposed it,saying it was not in favour of releasing the convicts.

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