The Madras High Court on Tuesday granted permission to Nalini Sriharan, serving a life sentence in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, to appear in person on July 5 to argue her plea for six months' ordinary leave to make arrangements for her daughter's wedding.
Nalini, who has been in prison for over 27 years, wanted the court to direct the Superintendent of Police, Special Prison for Women in Vellore, to produce her before the court so that she could argue her case for leave as party-in-person.
A division bench of justices M M Sundaresh and M Nirmal Kumar gave her permission to personally appear on that day at 2.15 pm to argue her case but made it clear that she shall act in accordance with the prison manual and rules and co-operate with the police escort.
"This court is not in a position to deny her request. After all, a lawyer is only a representative of a party.
"When the party wishes to appear in person and put forth her case, the court of law is not required to reject the request until and unless strong reasons exist," it said.
The court rejected the contention of the state council that there can be a law and order situation if Nalini is allowed to appear in person.
"The APP (Additional Public Prosecutor) apprehends likelihood of law and order situation during her appearance. But we do not find any existing material on the apprehension. We direct the respondents to produce the petitioner before this court at 2.15 pm on July 5," it said.
The bench made it clear that it was open to prison authorities and police to take appropriate steps towards protection and security.
"We further make it clear that petitioner shall act in accordance with the prison manual and rules and cooperate with the police escort," it said.
The court had on June 11 observed that the right of Nalini to appear in person to argue her plea cannot be denied.
According to Nalini, a life convict is entitled to one-month leave once in two years and since she had never availed such ordinary leave for more than 27 years, she made a representation to prison authorities on February 25 seeking six months' leave to make arrangement for her daughter's marriage.
Subsequently, Nalini's mother also made a similar representation on March 22. As the authorities failed to consider her representation, she moved the high court.
Nalini was initially sentenced to death for her involvement in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. However, her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Tamil Nadu government on April 24, 2000.
She claimed that after commutation of her death sentence, around 3,700 life convicts, who had served 10 years of imprisonment and less, were released by the Tamil Nadu government.
"My request to the state for premature release under the 1994 scheme of premature release of life convicts was cleared by the council of ministers and on September 9, 2018, the council advised the governor to release me and other six life convicts in the case.
"But it has been over six months and the decision of the state is still yet to be implemented," she had submitted.
The AIADMK government had adopted a resolution recommending to Governor Banwarilal Purohit the release of seven lifers -- Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Ravichandran, Robert Payas and Nalini.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami had said his government was committed to the release of the convicts and expressed the hope that the governor would act on the cabinet recommendation for setting them free.
His statement came amid renewed calls, both from the opposition and Tamil groups, for the release of the convicts, after the Supreme Court disposed of a plea against freeing them filed by the relatives of those killed along with Rajiv Gandhi.
Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber during an election rally at Sriperumpudur near here on May 21, 1991.