New Delhi :  In a snub to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the release of any convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. A 3-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam directed the State government to maintain status quo on the matter and said it will hear on March 6 the Centre’s plea against the state government’s decision to release all seven prisoners in the case.

The court, in its earlier order, had stayed the release of only three convicts in the case – these were the accused whose death sentence was commuted into life term due to delay in settling their clemency plea. The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Tamil Nadu government from releasing the four remaining convicts in the case as well.

Less than 24 hours after the court commuted the death sentence of the three convicts on ground of delay in deciding their clemency plea, Jayalalithaa had announced her decision to set free all seven convicts in the case. The convicts have already spent over 20 years in jail.

For years, the case has been linked to Tamil sentiment and the political parties in the state have campaigned for the convicts’ release.

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