Decision on release of Rajiv Gandhi killers in 3-4 days: Indian Supreme Court told

Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit would take a decision in three or four days on the state government’s recommendation to release the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the centre on Thursday informed the Supreme Court.

This comes as a significant development just months ahead of Tamil Nadu’s assembly elections slated for April-May. The Raj Bhavan in Chennai said that an official communication would follow after receiving information from solicitor general Tushar Mehta.

"Our part is over, it is up to the governor and the Centre now," said AIADMK leader and law minister C Ve Shunmugam. For more than a decade, political parties and activists have been demanding the release of the convicts - Nalini Sriharan, V Sriharan alias Murugan, AG Perarivalan, Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas and P Ravichandran. It gained momentum with elections nearing and a series of observations by the top court after it expressed unhappiness, earlier over the recommendation for remission of sentence of Perarivalan pending with Purohit for more than two years. Perarivalan's mother Arputham Ammal who has been fighting for his release on Thursday tweeted that she hoped the government would release her son.

The DMK and AIADMK have concurred on the convicts’ release but continue to tussle over who is responsible for their delayed freedom. Though the Gandhi family and Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and daughter Priyanka have forgiven the convicts, the state and central Congress leadership has been in disagreement over convicts’ release.

DMK’s ally Congress in Tamil Nadu too has opposed political parties demanding their release stating that they will accept the decision of the court. Dalit party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), also in alliance with the DMK and Congress, have been closely involved with the case.

In 2019, VCK leaders accompanied Perarivalan’s mother Arputham Ammal to meet union home minister Amit Shah in Delhi. “With the court’s intervention, the governor doesn’t have too many options and he is unlikely to reject Perarivalan’s plea as it would create political problems in the state and affect the AIADMK-BJP alliance,” said VCK’s leader and MP Ravikumar.

In 2014, the top court commuted the death penalty of Perarivalan and two other convicts (Murugan and Santhan) to life sentences. In 2015, Perarivalan applied for pardon to the governor. In 2018, Tamil Nadu government had recommended the release of Perarivalan after remitting his life sentence. The same year, the cabinet had also unanimously recommended remission for the seven convicts under provision of Article 161.

“We have been demanding that the AIADMK government do this since 2014 when J Jayalalithaa was the chief minister and they eventually did it in 2018 but haven’t been able to pressurise the governor to act,” said DMK spokesperson A Saravanan. In November, DMK president MK Stalin met Purohit urging him to release the seven prisoners on ‘humanitarian grounds. (Hindustan Times)

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