All convicts of Rajiv Gandhi assassination walks free

JNS: Five among the six remaining life-term convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case (1991), were formally released from Tamil Nadu jails on Saturday evening.

After spending 31 years in prison Nalini Sriharan, her husband V Sriharan, alias Murugan, and Santhan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar were released from Tamil Nadu jails. Ravichandran will also be let out soon, reported NDTV.

Of the six convicts, Nalini and Ravichandran are Indian citizens, whereas Santhan, Murugan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar are Sri Lankan nationals.

On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered to release of six people convicted of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, including Nalini Sriharan and RP Ravichandran. In this instance, both defendants were serving life sentences. The order was made by a bench comprising BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna who considered the inmates’ exemplary behaviour behind bars.

Nalini, who was already out on parole, first reported to the police to fulfil her parole conditions after that, she went to the Vellore women’s prison to finalise her paperwork and be released.

Her husband V Sriharan (alias Murugan) and Santhan were freed from central prison, where she afterwards went. While Robert Payas and Jayakumar were released from Puzhal prison, media reports said.

Notably, Perarivalan, and his mother Arputhammal, two other convicts set free in May, received them at the refugee camp, the report said.

After their release, the four of them were transferred to a refugee camp in Tiruchirappalli. Nalini’s lawyer claimed that she will make the decision to join her daughter in London, said Nalini’s lawyer.

“As for her husband Murugan, a Sri Lankan, his deportation will be decided by the government of Tamil Nadu. It was also mentioned that Santhan had previously stated his desire to move back to Sri Lanka,” he added.

Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on May 21, 1991, when an operative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam detonated her RDX-laden belt. The LTTE was seeking revenge for the Indian government’s decision to send troops to Sri Lanka to help the island nation fight Tamil separatists.

Twenty-six of the forty-one suspects including 12 who died in the blast or during the investigation were given death sentences in 1998 by a TADA court. In May 1999, the SC freed 19 of them, while upholding the death sentences of Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan, and Nalini, and commuting the death sentences of Payas, Ravichandran, and Jayakumar to life.

In 2000, Nalini’s death sentence was commuted based on the Tamil Nadu government’s recommendation and an appeal by Sonia Gandhi. The other three death sentences were commuted in 2014.

Nalini and Murugan were arrested about a month after Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

Her confession statement, which was taken into custody by TADA, stated that she hosted two Sri Lankan women, Subha and Dhanu, who carried out the attack. She was also accused of accompanying them to Rajiv’s election rally and taking them shopping for the clothes they wore on the day of the killing. According to the charge sheet, after Dhanu blew herself up, Nalini, Subha, and the LTTE’s mastermind, Sivarasan, fled.

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