Chennai: Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Thursday accused the DMK of enacting a 'political drama' on the issue of release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case with an eye on coming assembly elections. He also questioned why the DMK while in power in 2000 had recommended commuting the death sentence of Nalini Sriharan alone and rejected the mercy petitions of three others.
The main opposition party was "performing the drama" now to gain the sympathy of the people in elections, due in a few months, by creating a perception that it was taking all-out efforts to get the seven life convicts released, he told the state assembly. However, the AIADMK wanted their release and steps had been taken for it. The government was truly committed to facilitate their release, he asserted.
"I expect that the Governor would soon take a good decision in the matter (on the Tamil Nadu Cabinet's 2018 recommendation to release all the seven convicts)," he said during the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor's Address to the assembly. Intervening during ruling AIADMK MLA V Panneerselvam's speech, that had references to the DMK, Palaniswami traced the chronology of events in the case related to the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at nearby Sriperumbudur in May, 1991.
He said that on April 19, 2000 a Cabinet meeting of the then DMK government recommended to then Governor Fathima Beevi to commute the death sentence of Nalini Sriharan alone to life imprisonment out of the total four people whose capital punishment was upheld by the Supreme Court. The DMK government had recommended rejection of the mercy petition of three others — Sriharan alias Murugan, Santhan and A G Perarivalan, he said, adding the Governor approved it.
Though the DMK issued statements for their release now, there was no answer from it till date on why its government did not recommend commutation of the death sentences of Sriharan, Santhan and Perarivalan, Palaniswami said. "When this is the truth," the leader of the opposition in the assembly (DMK chief M K Stalin) staged a walkout from the House on Tuesday opposing the Governor's address and urging the release of seven convicts, he said.
Hiding the truth in the matter, Stalin has given interview to the press, he said, adding "the DMK is enacting a political drama today on the issue" and the people were watching the events. Detailing the steps taken by the AIADMK government, the chief minister said not stopping with the Cabinet recommendation, he himself has taken it up with Governor Banwarilal Purohit to expeditiously take a decision on their release.
On January 29 too he called on Purohit and reiterated the request, Palaniswami said. Recalling past events, he said that after rejection of their petitions by the governor based on the DMK government's recommendation, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan had submitted mercy pleas to the then President in the same year. The pleas were rejected in 2011.
Though then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa got a resolution passed in the assembly seeking reconsideration of their petitions, the then Congress-led government did not take any action. Also, the DMK, which was part of the Central government then, did not exert pressure on the union government on the matter.
Eventually, the Supreme Court commuted the trio's death sentences to life imprisonment and following that 'Amma' (Jayalalithaa) decided in February 2014 to release all the seven convicts and sought the Centre's view as per law. The then UPA government, led by the Congress went to the Supreme Court opposing Tamil Nadu government's move.
"The Congress which was in power then at the Centre and the DMK which was offering issue based outside support to the government could have helped for their release during that point in time at the least," he said. Referring to the subsequent progress of the matter in the apex court and a Cabinet decision of his government on September 9, 2018 recommending to the Governor to release all the seven convicts, he asserted the past events demonstrated that the AIADMK government alone took "swift measures" for their release.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 by a woman suicide bomber at an election rally. Besides the woman, thirteen others were also killed in the incident..