The Supreme Court on Thursday deferred until March 26 the hearing on the Centre's plea against the Tamil Nadu government's decision to release seven prisoners convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam adjourned the case and posted it for final hearing on March 26 after the Centre sought time to file a rejoinder to state government's response.
Earlier, the apex court had restrained the state government from releasing the prisoners who were undergoing life sentence and directed it to maintain status quo.
The Tamil Nadu government had opposed the Centre's plea, saying the petition was not maintainable as the Union government cannot file a writ in the case. The state government had also submitted that the Centre has no locus in the matter.
It had asked as to why the Centre rushed to the apex court instead of replying to the state government's letter seeking the stand of the Union government on release of the prisoners.
The bench had questioned the state government, saying, "Is the Centre rushing or you are rushing?" and made it clear that it will first consider the maintainability of the Centre's petition before going into its merits.
The bench had said that every state must be aware about the procedure to be followed for release of prisoners. The apex court had on February 20 stayed the release of three convicts -- Murugan, Santhan and Arivu -- whose death sentence was commuted to life term by it on February 18 in the case, saying there had been procedural lapses on the part of the state government on the decision to release them.
Thereafter, the Centre had moved the plea seeking a stay on the release of convicts Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran in the case.
The Jayalalithaa government had on February 19 decided to set free all the seven convicts in the assassination case. Santhan, Murugan and Arivu are currently lodged in the Central Prison, Vellore and they are in jail since 1991.
The other four are also undergoing life sentence for their role in Gandhi's assassination on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur.
The bench had on February 20 issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government, the inspector general of prisons, Chennai, the superintendent of the central prison, Vellore and the convicts -- V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A G Perarivalan alias Arivu -- for Thursday.