India's top court has blocked a move by the government of southern Tamil Nadu state to free seven people convicted of killing the country's former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Chief Justice P Sathasivam on Thursday said the Supreme Court was concerned about procedural lapses leading to the decision to free the convicts and would examine them. The federal government had earlier moved the court, opposing the decision to free the killers.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha had on Wednesday announced her decision to free the seven. A day earlier, the Supreme Court had commuted the death sentences of three of them. Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan were sentenced to life in prison instead.
Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president and son of Rajiv Gandhi, had also voiced his pain over the Tamil Nadu government's decision to free the seven.
"I am saddened...it is close to me, hence I am sharing this. It is not just about my father, the killers of this country's prime minister are being released," Rahul told reporters hours after Jayalalitha announced her decision to free the seven people, including one woman.
"If a prime minister does not get justice in this country, then a common man never will," Rahul said. He, however, added that he did not believe in capital punishment.
Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a Sri Lankan LTTE human bomb during an election rally in 1991. The Lankan rebel group carried out the assassination to avenge Gandhi's policy towards Sri Lanka during his stint as prime minister.
On Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, denounced the move to free the killers, saying it was against the "principles of justice".