Question of intent: Why Supreme Court didn’t find Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts guilty of terror

Source: The post is based on an article “Question of intent: Why Supreme Court didn’t find Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts guilty of terror” published in The Indian Express on 15th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2- Governance

Relevance: SC judgment in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case

News: The Supreme Court (SC) has recently released all the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

This has created controversies. Therefore, there is a need to look at the SC’s 1999 judgment in which it said that the killing by the LTTE was not a terrorist act.

What was the judgment of SC in 1999?

The matter came to the SC in 1998 after the TADA court sentenced all 26 accused to death. Judges looking at the case had different views and gave separate judgements.

However, all three judges were of the view that crime only attracted relevant sections of the IPC- murder (302) and conspiracy (120-B). Provision of TADA could not be applied.

Section 3(1) of TADA says that anyone who commits act using explosives that could cause death or damage with intent to

  • overawe the government or
  • to strike terror in any section of the people or
  • to alienate any section of the people or
  • to affect the harmony amongst different sections of the people,

commits a terrorist act.

The court said that the intent under this section was important and the current case does not signify that assassination was done with any of these four intents.

The court quoted the speech of the LTTE leader which said that they were not against India or the Indian people. They were only against the former leadership in India who was against the Tamil liberation struggle and the LTTE.

Therefore, the court ruled that the intent under Section 3(1) of TADA is not applicable in this case.

The court also ruled out Section 4 of TADA that says killing a person bound by oath under the Constitution to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India or any public servant was deemed a disruptive activity.

The court ruled that this section was also not applicable as Parliament was dissolved months earlier to the assassination and Rajiv Gandhi was not a person bound by oath as an MP.

Therefore, the court ruled that the convicts did not have any intention to overawe the government or strike terror to the people of India. Thus, only IPC sections of murder and conspiracy can be applied to the seven convicts who were guilty.

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