The Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, and why Supreme Court has freed all convicts
(GS-III: Challenges to internal security)
Many have divided opinions on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to free all six remaining convicts serving life sentences in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, on the night of May 21, 1991, killing 18 people.
In the case, the TADA or Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act trial court initially convicted 26 people to death.
In 1999, a few years after the TADA Act was repealed, the SC upheld the conviction of only 7 (convicting 4 of them to death and the other 3 to life imprisonment), releasing the rest.
By 2014, the SC commuted the death sentences of all 4 to life imprisonment
The Tamil Nadu government had recommended the release of all convicts. However, the Governor had not acted upon this recommendation.
The convicts had spent more than three decades in prison, where their conduct was satisfactory.
Invoking its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, the recent SC order noted that none of the 6 convicts was a part of the nucleus of the assassination team.
Definition of terrorism:
According to the TADA, terrorism involves all or any one of the 4 acts –
As per TADA, 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.
Grounds on which convicts were released:
The prosecution’s case was that the assassination was an act to prevent the government from continuing with the implementation of the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Accord.
The SC said that for an act to qualify under the definition of terrorism, its “intent” is critical.
It is difficult for the court to conclude that the conspirators intended to overawe/endanger the Government of India or to strike terror in people or any section thereof.
There is no evidence that any one of the conspirators ever desired the death of any Indian other than Rajiv Gandhi.
Unfortunately, Rajiv Gandhi was not then a person bound by oath under the Constitution to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, as the Lok Sabha had been dissolved months before the incident.
10 years of the POCSO Act
Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy launched a report, ‘A Decade of POCSO: Developments, Challenges and Insights from Judicial Data’.
As per 2020 NCRB data, over 90% of perpetrators are people known to victims
High pendency of cases
Low conviction rate (only around 14%)
Issue of a higher age of consent thereby minors getting convicted for even consensual acts.
Tamil Nadu stands ahead of other States in terms of reporting cases and conviction of the accused.
Need for after-school care: Children whose parents work are usually left on their own after school, and this heightens vulnerability.
POCSO Act 2012 was passed to protect children from sexual abuse/assault/harassment or pornography.
Major features of the act:
Cultivate One Million Children as Neoteric (new) Innovators
1.5 Lakh students in India attended NITI Aayog’s mega tinkering activity on the occasion of Children’s day.
Over 10000 Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) have been established to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young children.
Financial Support: AIM will provide a grant-in-aid that includes a one-time establishment cost of Rs. 10 lakh and operational expenses of Rs. 10 lakh for a maximum period of 5 years to each ATL.
Eligibility: Schools (minimum Grade VI – X) managed by Government, local bodies or private trusts/society can set up ATL.
AIM (by Niti Aayog) is mandated to create an umbrella structure to oversee the innovation ecosystem of the country and revolutionise the innovation eco-system – touching upon the entire innovation life cycle through various programs.
India’s net zero plan
India announced its long-term strategy to transition to a “low emissions” pathway at the COP27 ongoing in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
These steps are in line with India’s “five-decade journey” to net zero or being carbon neutral by 2070 – a commitment made by the PM of India at COP26, Glasgow, last year.
The LT-LEDS (Long Term-Low Emission Development Strategy) are a requirement from the 2015 Paris Agreement whereby countries must explain how they will achieve near-term NDC targets and work towards achieving net zero around 2050.
India is expected to triple its nuclear power output over the next decade, as well as become an international hub for creating green hydrogen and increasing the quantity of ethanol in petrol.
India will also focus on improving energy efficiency through the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme, the National Hydrogen Mission, increasing electrification, enhancing material efficiency and recycling and ways to reduce emissions.
The third edition of the ‘pan-India’ coastal defence Exercise ‘Sea Vigil-22’ is scheduled to be held soon.
About Sea Vigil exercise:
The exercise was conceptualised in 2018 to validate various measures that have been instituted towards enhancing maritime security since ‘26/11’.
It is conducted by the Indian Navy in coordination with the Coast Guard and other Ministries entrusted with the task of maritime activities.
Sea Vigil-22 will see the activation of the coastal security apparatus across India and will be undertaken along the entire 7,516 km coastline and Exclusive Economic Zone of India.
The exercise is a warm-up for the Indian Navy’s major Theatre Level Readiness Operational Exercise (TROPEX), which takes place every two years.
Sea Vigil and TROPEX will work together to address the broad spectrum of maritime security challenges.