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SC says TN governor can free Rajiv murder convicts
By Nirmala Joseph September 07, 2018
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CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday declined a reaction to the Supreme Court comment that the state governor has the discretionary powers to release the seven convicts in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Officials said a government decision cannot be expected immediately.

Observers point out that a decision will have far-reaching consequences as the convicts are activists of the now-defunct Tamil Tiger outfit of Sri Lanka. While a section of the Tamil population still hugs their cause, another section considers them terrorists.

The Central government had last month opposed their release in the Supreme Court. The Centre submitted an affidavit telling the court that the former prime minister’s assassins cannot be released and that the President of India had already rejected a proposal to release the convicts.

The apex court said on Thursday the state government should recommend to the Governor to release the seven who have served jail term for nearly three decades. The convicts are V. Sriharan alias Murugan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, P. Ravichandran and Nalini.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Naveen Sinha and KM Joseph disposed of the Centre’s petition on the matter. The Centre had said their release will set a “dangerous precedent” and have “international ramifications.”

The death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan was commuted by the Supreme Court on February 18, 2014, citing inordinate delay by the executive in deciding their mercy plea.

Tamil Nadu Governor in April 2000 commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the basis of the state government’s recommendation and on an appeal by Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi.

Perarivalan, 47, on Aug.20 wrote to the court saying there had not been any decision on his mercy petition to the Tamil Nadu governor, which he had filed in December 2015. “I have endured more than 24 years of solitary/single confinement,” he wrote.

“As per jail rules, life imprisonment at ground level is only for a maximum of 20 years and thereafter the prisoner is considered for release. Now I have already undergone more than life imprisonment.” The crime charged on him was supplying a 9-volt battery allegedly used in the bomb that killed Gandhi and 14 others.

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