CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has issued directions for the immediate release of P Lakshmi Narasimhan who is undergoing life sentence in connection with the 1986 murder of south Indian actress Rani Padmini and her mother.
A division bench comprising justices Rajiv Shakdher and N Sathish Kumar passed the order yesterday on a habeas corpus plea moved by Narasiman's wife S L Mary.
Mary wanted the government to release her husband prematurely under a scheme introduced by the Tamil Nadu government on September 11, 2008.
According to the scheme, prisoners who have served imprisonment for over seven years as on 2008 become eligible for premature release.
But when Narasiman made a representation under the scheme to the prison authorities, the state opposed it on the ground that he was originally awarded death sentence, and is undergoing life term as the Supreme Court had commuted his sentence.
Therefore, technically he was not a life prisoner and could not be considered eligible for premature release under the scheme, the state then contended.
When the plea came up for hearing, the bench pointed out that the state does not put forth any other objection to the relief sought for by the petitioner in terms of the scheme.
The objection raised by the state had already been repelled by the court in a similar case earlier, the bench said and directed the government to release him forthwith, unless his detention is required in connection with another case.
Padmini had acted in several Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu films during 1980s.
On October 15, 1986 Padmini and her mother were murdered by their driver Jebaraj, watchman Lakshmi Narasimhan alias Kutty and cook Ganeshan who stabbed them with knives.
A trial court convicted all the three and sentenced each of them to death.
But the high court acquitted the watchman and the cook, while altering the sentence of the driver to imprisonment for life.
On an appeal moved by the state, the Supreme Court confirmed the order of the trial court, but commuted the death sentence to life.