Five of the six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts walked out of Tamil Nadu jails on Saturday, a day after the Supreme Court ordered their premature release, reported PTI.
Nalini Sriharan, Robert Pais, Suthenthira Raja alias Santhan, Shriharan alias Murugan and Jaikumar were released from Tamil Nadu prisons on Saturday evening. Ravichandran will also be let out soon, reported NDTV.
“It’s a new life for me with my husband and daughter,” Nalini Sriharan said after walking out. “I thank Tamil people for supporting me.”
Murugan, Santhan, Robert Payas and Jaikumar, all Sri Lankan citizens, were taken in a police vehicle to a refugee camp in Tiruchirappalli on Saturday. Perarivalan, along with his mother Arputhammal, received Payas and Jaikumar at the Puzhal prison in Chennai.
The Supreme Court released the convicts noting that the Tamil Nadu government had recommended their release but the governor had not acted on the recommendation. The judges said that the convicts had spent more than three decades behind bars, and that their behaviour in prison was satisfactory.
In May, the judges had also ordered the release of another convict AG Perarivalan. On Friday, the judges held that the order passed to release Perarivalan was applicable to the six other convicts also.
The court also noted that five out of six convicts had pursued studies in jail, and that Raja had written several articles, for which he got awards.
While several Tamil Nadu parties had welcome the Supreme Court’s decision, the Congress had described the ruling as “unacceptable and erroneous”.
“The Congress party criticises it clearly and finds it wholly untenable,” the party’s General Secretary Jairam Ramesh had said in a statement. “It is most unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not acted in consonance with the spirit of India on this issue.”
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 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, Santhan and Perarivalan. In 2000, Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.