The Tamil Nadu cabinet has recommended the release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, saying the recommendation would be sent to governor Banwarilal Purohit immediately, minister D Jayakumar said on Sunday.
The move comes after Nalini Sriharan, a life convict in the case, forwarded a petition to the state home secretary, urging the government to consider her plea for early release.
This followed the Supreme Court asking the governor to consider the mercy petition of AG Perarivalan, another convict in the 1991 case.
A life convict at the Special Prison for Women here, Nalini in her petition recalled that she had made a representation on February 22, 2014 to the government seeking her release under Article 161 of the Constitution.
Article 161 deals with the judicial powers of the governor of a state. Her plea for release was in accordance with the state government's 1994 Scheme of Premature Release of Life Convicts, she said.
In her petition, which she forwarded through the Superintendent of Prisons here Friday and made available to the media, she said following her 2014 petition, she moved the high court in 2015 seeking a direction to the government to consider her plea for release.
In its order dated July 20, 2016, the Madras high court had said the authorities were at liberty to consider her representation in accordance with law subject to the outcome of another writ petition in the Supreme Court.
The high court's judgment has been confirmed by a division bench in its order of April 27, 2018, she said. Days ago, "the Supreme Court had disposed," of a related pending petition too, she said.
In view of the ruling of the Madras high court and the apex court disposing of a related plea, Nalini said, "My representation dated February 22, 2014 seeking my release under Article 161 of the Constitution in accordance with the said scheme...may be considered and I may be released from prison at an early date."
She said she was "fully eligible" to be released under the scheme. The Supreme Court has disposed of a petition by the Centre regarding a proposal for the release of the convicts, filed by the Tamil Nadu government.
The Centre had on August 10 told the apex court that it does not concur with the Tamil Nadu government's proposal to release the seven convicts, saying remission of their sentence will set a “dangerous precedent” and have “international ramifications”.
Recently, Nalini had thanked Congress president Rahul Gandhi for saying he had forgiven his father’s killers and had no objection to their release.
In an exclusive conversation with CNN-News18 via letters, she said she would like to let her daughter know that she and her father would come home soon and they would all live in peace together.
“I pray that the Centre acts with magnanimity. There are many painful events in my life and I want to forget all the pain. I want to spend the rest of my life with my daughter,” she said.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at an election rally. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed.
Reacting to the news, Perarivalan's mother expressed her gratitude to the state government and said her "28-year long suffering has come to an end."
The announcement also invited a host of political reactions, with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy saying the recommendation was not binding on the governor. “He has the sole discretion. I am sure he will go through the record. Given his scholarly habit, he’ll reject the recommendation,” he told ANI.
The DMK welcomed the Tamil Nadu government’s recommendation but its ally Congress differed, saying it will set a “wrong precedent”.
“The Tamil Nadu governor should immediately implement (the cabinet decision) to bring joy to the people,” DMK president MK Stalin said. Besides DMK, the PMK and AMMK were among those who hailed the move.
However, TNCC President Su Thirunavukkarasar wanted the Governor to toe the Centre's earlier line, where it had opposed Tamil Nadu government's previous proposal for the release of the convicts. "It is true that they have been in prison for a long time. But their release will set a wrong precedent. Law is common for all. If you take decisions based on (factors like) mercy, it will set wrong precedent in the future," he said.
PMK founder-leader S Ramadoss welcomed the move, saying the decision was not merely that of the cabinet but reflected that of the state.
(With inputs from PTI)