Rajiv Gandhi assassination: SC asks Centre, Tamil Nadu to reply to convicts’ plea for early release
The two convicts, Nalini Sriharan and RP Ravichandran, are serving life sentences in the case.
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre and the Tamil Nandu government seeking their response to a plea filed by two convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, The Hindu reported.
In their plea, Nalini Sriharan and RP Ravichandran, who are serving life sentences in the case, have sought an early release.
The convicts had initially approached the Madras High Court praying it should order their release without seeking the the state’s governor consent. However, on June 17, a bench comprising Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N Mala had observed that it did not have the special powers that the Supreme Court has under Article 142 of the Constitution to do so.
The High Court had then allowed the convicts to approach the Supreme Court.
Article 142 of the Indian Constitution allows the Supreme Court to pass an order that it deems necessary to ensure complete justice in a case.
In May, the court had used the power under the Article to order the release of AG Perarivalan, another convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Perarivalan had served 30 years in prison. He approached the court questioning the delay in his release despite the Tamil Nadu government’s recommendation to remit his sentence in 2018.
Under the Constitution’s Article 161, the governor has powers to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment.
The Supreme Court noted that the governor had shown reluctance to take a call on the pardon plea filed by Perarivalan. It also observed that the governor’s delay in deciding to remit Perarivalan’s sentence warranted his release.
On Monday, a Bench led by Justice BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna said that the case will be heard next on October 10.
Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on May 21, 1991, when an operative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, detonated her RDX-laden belt.
The LTTE was seeking revenge for the Indian government’s decision to send troops to Sri Lanka to help the island nation fight Tamil separatists.
In 1998, a court had sentenced 26 people to death for the conspiracy to kill the former prime minister.
A year later, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of only four of them – Nalini Sriharan, Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan and AG Perarivalan. In 2000, Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
Nalini has been granted ordinary parole twice since her arrest in 1991.
In July 2019, she had been granted the relief for 50 days. In December 2021, she was granted a month’s parole.
She has also been granted emergency parole on two occasions – to attend her brother’s wedding and after the death of her father.