Rajiv assassination: HC dismisses petition of convict

Rajiv assassination: HC dismisses petition of convict

Nalini Sriharan, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, sought a direction to TN governor to decide on state govt decision to release her and six others

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The Madras High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by Nalini Sriharan, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, seeking a direction to Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit to decide on the state government’s decision to release her and six others from jail.

Nalini, her husband Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and four others are serving a life sentence in the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi at the Vellore Central prison. The Tamil Nadu Cabinet had in September 2018 passed a unanimous resolution urging the governor to order the release of all seven convicts since they have served more than 28 years in prison.

However, Purohit has not yet taken a call on the resolution pending before him and Nalini, one of the seven convicts, moved the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Governor to countersign the advice of the council of ministers.

The release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case is an emotive issue in Tamil Nadu with all political parties supporting the decision of the state government. The Tamil Nadu Assembly had in the past passed a unanimous resolution seeking to release the seven people.

In its judgement delivered on Thursday, a division bench of Justices R Subbaiah and C Saravanan held that Article 361 of the Constitution insulated the Governor of a state from being questioned or answerable before any court with respect to discharge his official duties.

Quoting Supreme Court verdicts, the bench said the law gives complete immunity and privilege to the Governor in the discharge of his Constitutional obligations.

“Therefore, questioning the discharge of the act of a Governor or failure to discharge his Constitutional obligations cannot be subjected to judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution by arraying the Governor as a party to the writ proceedings,” the bench said.

It also noted that the privilege and immunity conferred on the Governor under Article 361 of the Constitution is a clear bar on the petitioner to file the present petition.

“The Governor cannot be equated with the instrumentalities under Article 12 of the Constitution who are amenable to the jurisdiction of this court through a writ petition," the bench said in its order.

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber on May 21, 1991, in Sriperumbudur near Chennai during an election campaign. The seven convicts have been in jail since 1991.