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How long do you want to detain suspects in Rajiv case: SC

July 18, 2005 19:12 IST

"How long will you keep them?" asked the Supreme Court on Monday noticing that two Sri Lankans have been detained for over six years for their alleged involvement in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, and that the Central Bureau of Investigation had challenged a Madras High Court order releasing them.

A Bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice S B Sinha posed this pointed question to Solicitor General G E Vahanvati, who said that they played a very 'sensitive role' in the conspiracy to assassinate the former prime minister.

When Vahanvati attributed the delay in the investigation to the non-cooperation of the Sri Lankan authorities, the Bench asked, "If they do not respond, can they be kept for ever here?"

The solicitor general said that he would get back to the court with specific information from the Ministry of External Affairs regarding the time to be taken for completing the probe. The Bench stayed the high court order for a period of
15 days and posted the matter for further hearing on August 1.

The CBI director, as head of the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency, had challenged the April 25 order of the high court releasing Lingam and Vasanthan on the ground that the they have played 'important roles' in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperambudur in Tamil Nadu in 1991.

"It has come to light during the course of investigation by the Special Investigation Team as well as that of MDMA, that the respondents are closely associated with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam," the appeal stated while seeking stay of the high court order. 

The Bench told the solicitor general that it would not give indefinite time to the CBI to carry on its probe against
the two and that the agency should give a definite timeframe for completing the probe.

"We cannot keep them in custody for ever only because of certain suspicion," the Bench said about Lingam and Vasanthan, lodged at present in a special camp for Sri Lankan Refugees at Chengalpattu near Chennai. They have been detained under the Foreigners Act for illegally entering India without valid travel documents.

The CBI appeal said the Memorandum of Action taken by the Central government on the Jain Commission Report envisaged the setting up of MDMA in the CBI to further investigate the roles of 21 suspects in the Rajiv assassination case.

Although the names of Lingam and Vasanthan were not included among the 21 accused listed in the Memorandum of
Action Taken, the MDMA while investigating into the activities of the suspects, had come across information, which lead to the suspicion that the present respondents had important roles to play in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, it said.

The MDMA said, "Lingam had received the 9-member killer squad consisting of Sivarasan, Dhanu alias Anbu, Subbha alias Nithya, Neru alias Gokul, Suthandiraja alias Santhan, Shankar alias Koneswaran, Vijayanandan alias Hariyya, Ruban alias Suresh and Driver Anna alias Keerthi on its arrival at Kodaikkarai on May 1, 1991, to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi."

About Vasanthan, the CBI alleged that he had, "Actively participated in arranging for the accommodation of Sivarasan, Subha and Neru at Bangalore after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991, at Sriperambudur."


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