Rajiv case convicts' release issue hogs limelight again in TN

·3-min read

Chennai, Nov 5 (PTI) The issue of release of seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case is once again in spotlight with the DMK upping the ante on it days after the Supreme Court expressed its unhappiness over the pendency of a pardon plea by one of them for more than two years with the Tamil Nadu Governor.

Incidentally, Governor Banwarilal Purohit, on a visit to Delhi since Wednesday, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others.

DMK president M K Stalin on Thursday urged Purohit to accept the state government's recommendation and set free all the seven Rajiv case convicts.

Chief Minister K Palaniswami ridiculed Stalin on the issue, seeking to remind him that an earlier DMK-led government under the late M Karunanidhi had 'rejected' the mercy petitions of the concerned.

He said it was late chief minister J Jayalalithaa who set the ball rolling vis-a-vis the pre-mature release of the seven convicts and that the Amma government under him had been taking it forward, a reference to its September 9, 2018 cabinet resolution recommending remission.

A Raj Bhavan release said Purohit called on Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi on Wednesday and 'they discussed important issues related to Tamil Nadu,' seen as a pointer to the Rajiv case convicts issue.

Purohit visited Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday and 'discussed important issues of the state.' Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur near here by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at an election rally.

Seven people were awarded death sentence but later it was commuted to life imprisonment.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had expressed unhappiness over the pendency of the plea by A G Perarivalan, one of the covicts, seeking pardon for over two years with Purohit.

The same day the DMK and PMK had urged the Governor to decide on their release.

Stalin in his latest letter requested for the remission of the sentences of convicts and their immediate release.

The DMK chief said the seven convicts -- Nalini, V Sriharan alias Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas and P Ravichandran have been 'languishing' in prison for nearly three decades.

He claimed that due to his party's 'pressure,' the state cabinet had on September 9, 2018 recommended the remission of the rest of the sentence of all 7 convicts and their early release and the recommendation was sent.

Though under Article 161 of the Constitution, the Governor has the power to suspend, remit or commute any sentence, the government's recommendation was put on hold for over two years causing 'untold hardship' to the seven convicts, Stalin said.

'It is trite in law that a Constitutional authority performs his duty within a reasonable timeframe,' the DMK leader, who is also the leader of opposition in the state assembly, said.

Referring to the Supreme Court's observations, Stalin said the fact that the recommendation has been kept pending for over 2 years by the governor's office 'reflects poorly on the state and gives the impression that the state is not run in accordance with law.' Palaniswami, speaking to reporters in Coimbatore, lashed out at Stalin over the issue, saying the DMK government had in 2000 'rejected' their mercy petitions but recommended commuting Nalini's capital punishment to life sentence.

He recalled the cabinet headed by the late Jayalalalithaa had earlier decided to free the seven convicts.

'To implement Amma's desire, we adopted a cabinet resolution (in 2018, to release the seven) and sent it to the Governor,' he said.

'Only our government took steps that were reflective of the people's feelings and adopted the unanimous resolution,' he added.

Only the Governor can now take a decision on the matter, the chief minister said.

CPI (M) Lok Sabha MP S Venkatesan urged President Ram Nath Kovind to prevail upon Purohit to immediately facilitate the release of the seven convicts.

'I most humbly urge you to prevail upon the Governor of Tamil Nadu to not to prolong the issue further and immediately facilitate the release of seven convicts,' he said. PTI VGN NVM SA VS VS