The Madras High Court on Thursday rejected Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict Nalini Sriharan’s plea for early release, reported PTI. Sriharan, in her plea, had asked the court to direct the state to press the governor to decide on its recommendation for premature release of all the seven convicts. All the seven people, including Sriharan, are serving life term in the case.
“Already the council of ministers recommended to the governor for premature release of Nalini and six others... while so, issuing a mandamus directing them to consider her representation does not arise,” the division bench of Justices R Subbiah and C Saravanan said in its order.
Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has not yet responded to the state Cabinet’s September 2018 resolution recommending the release of the seven convicts. The other convicts are Sriharan’s husband Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Ravichandran and AG Perarivalan.
The state government’s resolution had come after the Supreme Court told Purohit to consider Perarivalan’s mercy petition. In August 2018, the Centre had opposed in the top court the state government’s petition to release the convicts, and had said it would set a “dangerous precedent” and have “international ramifications”. In June, President Ram Nath Kovind had rejected the state government’s request to release the prisoners.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991, when an operative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam named Gayatri set off an RDX-laden belt she wore under her belt. The LTTE was seeking revenge for the Indian government’s decision to send troops to Sri Lanka to help the island-country fight the Tamil separatists.
In 1998, a court sentenced 26 people to death for the conspiracy, but a year later the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of only four of them – Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. Three others were sentenced to life imprisonment and the remaining 19 were freed. In 2000, Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In 2014, the top court commuted the death sentences of the other three as well, saying the Centre cannot unduly delay examining their mercy petitions.