The six remaining life-term convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case were all released from four jails in Tamil Nadu on Saturday, a day after the Supreme Court mandated their release "forthwith."
Nalini returned from her long parole, presented herself at the women’s prison in Vellore and was formally released 15 minutes earlier. She held on to her husband Sriharan’s hand, extended from inside a police vehicle in Vellore, and jogged beside the van. She had been waiting at the gate and broke down on seeing him walk free.
All the four Sri Lankan nationals - Murugan, alias Sriharan, Santhan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar - were driven to the special camp for foreign nationals at Kottapattu, near the central prison in Tiruchi, by an escort vehicle.
Sriharan and Santhan were released from Vellore central prison. About 135km away, Robert Payas and his brother-in-law and co-convict Jayakumar stepped out of Puzhal prison. Arputhammal, the mother of A G Perarivalan, who was the first to be released by the Supreme Court on May 18 this year, was present at the jail gate along with 50 Naam Tamilar Kathi cadres to receive the two. Ravichandran, who was out on parole since November 2021, was the last to complete his release formalities.
Supporting the plea of the convicts, the DMK-led Tamil Nadu government contended that the state cabinet had recommended remission of sentences of seven convicts to the governor under Article 161 (power to grant pardon, remission), which is binding on him. It also referred to the May 18 verdict (release of 1st convict A G Perarivalam), which held that the governor's decision to refer their remission plea to the President despite a recommendation by the TN cabinet was without any constitutional backing and “was inimical to the scheme of our Constitution".
Later, Congress said the Supreme Court’s premature release of the six convicts is bad in law, “totally unacceptable, completely erroneous”, and not in consonance with the spirit of India. Congress MP and senior Supreme Court advocate Abhishek Singhvi remarked that former PM’s assassination is an “institutional matter” on which the party even disagreed with the personal views of former Congress presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra - the former PM’s wife and children - and clarified that the Congress never agreed with the Gandhi family’s view because “the sovereignty, integrity and identity of the nation is involved in a Prime Minister's assassination. ”