Rajiv Gandhi case: State seeks guv nod to free convict

Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Tamil Nadu government petitions HC to await governor's nod to release convict

Move comes in backdrop of State Cabinet recommending the release of all seven convicts in 2018

Nalini, one of the seven convicts, moved the HC last month seeking release. Credit: PTI File Photo

The Tamil Nadu government has urged the Madras High Court to reject a petition filed by Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict, S Nalini, seeking to release her without waiting for a nod from the Governor.

The Home Department, in an affidavit submitted to the court on November 27, said that the Governor’s nod is mandatory for the release of Nalini, one of seven convicts serving life terms in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. 

Nalini had moved the court last month seeking release from the Vellore Central prison after declaring it “unconstitutional” alleging the Tamil Nadu Governor’s “failure” in acting on a decision by the State Cabinet in 2018, recommending the release of all seven convicts.

The then Governor, Banwarilal Purohit, had earlier this year told the Supreme Court that he has forwarded the recommendation of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet to President Ram Nath Kovind. Nalini, in her petition, argued that the Governor has to go by the advice of the Council of Ministers and accept the recommendations of the cabinet. 

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The affidavit submitted by D Padmanabhan, Joint Secretary, Home Department, Tamil Nadu government, detailed the case and elaborated on the multiple cases heard by the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court in this regard. 

The government suggested that the approval of the Governor, on the recommendation of the Cabinet, was necessary for Nalini’s release from the jail.

Chief Minister MK Stalin, in May this year, wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking his immediate decision on the release of the seven convicts. 

The release of the seven convicts is an emotional issue in Tamil Nadu, with almost all regional parties supporting the cause, while Congress and BJP oppose the move. 

“In view of the decisions made by the Honourable Supreme Court of India in various judgements cited above and the ratio laid down therein, the averments of the petitioner are not legally sustainable and the petition is liable to be dismissed,” Padmanabhan said in the 28-page affidavit. 

The affidavit also referred to observations by a Supreme Court bench in a case filed by Nalini’s husband V Sriharan that the power of commutation “exclusively rests with the appropriate government.” 

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber on May 21, 1991, minutes before he was to address an election rally in Sriperumbudur, 50 kilometres from Chennai.

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