After 23 long years of incarceration, all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case are set to walk into freedom with Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Wednesday announcing the State government’s decision to grant remission and release them, irrespective of the Centre’s views.
It comes a day after the Supreme Court commuted to life the death sentences of convicts Murugan alias Sriharan, Suthenthira Raja alias Santhan and Perarivalan alias Arivu.
Others to be released along with the trio are Murugan’s wife Nalini, whose sentence was commuted to life earlier, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran. The latter three were awarded capital punishment by a trial court which was commuted to life by the Supreme Court.
The decision on remission, which was left open to the State government by the apex court, was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by the Chief Minister. Announcing the Cabinet’s decision in the Assembly amidst thunderous applause, Jayalalithaa said that since the case was investigated by the CBI and tried by the designated TADA Court in Poonamallee, the Centre has to be consulted on the release as per Section 435 of the CrPC.
“If the Centre fails to respond to the TN Cabinet’s decision within three days, the State government would go ahead and release the convicted — Suthenthira Raja alias Santhan, Sriharan alias Murugan, Perarivalan alias Arivu, Nalini, Robert Pyas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran — invoking the powers vested under Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” Jayalalithaa added.
A couple of hours after Jayalalithaa’s announcement, Arputhammal, Perarivalan’s mother, called on the CM at the Secretariat and thanked her for the expeditious humanitarian gesture. Later, talking to mediapersons, Arputhammal said, “No other leader would have taken such a bold decision. I will be forever grateful to her for this gesture.”
Referring to the request of DMK chief M Karunanidhi to release the convicts, Jayalalithaa said, “Karunanidhi has no locus standi to speak about (the convicts’ release) since he has been indulging in doublespeak on this issue.”