Convicts jailed over LTTE murder of Rajiv Gandhi freed
Nalini Sriharan’s brother Bakianathan said the convicts had already served 33 years in prison and had suffered enough. “They were released on humanitarian grounds. Those who oppose their release should respect the laws of India,” Bakianathan told NDTV.
In May, the Supreme Court used its extraordinary powers to free a seventh convict, Perarivalan. The same order applied to the rest of the convicts, the court said.
The court also noted that the Tamil Nadu government had recommended to the Governor in 2018 that the convicts be freed.
Besides Nalini, the others jailed for the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were Sriharan, Santhan, Murugan, Robert Payas and RP Ravichandran.
The Rajiv Gandhi killers’ case stirs deep emotions in Tamil Nadu and every government in the state, whether led by the AIADMK or DMK, has campaigned for their freedom. Many in Tamil Nadu believe that the seven prisoners played minor roles in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and were duped into taking part in a plot they knew little about.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group from neighbouring Sri Lanka.
The seven convicts were sentenced to death for their role in the killing.
In 2000, Nalini Sriharan’s sentence was reduced to a life term on the intervention of Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s wife and former Congress president. In 2008, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the daughter of Rajiv Gandhi, met with her in Vellore jail.
The sentence of six more convicts was also commuted in 2014. The same year, then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha initiated moves to free them.