Tamil Nadu CM Sets Free Rajiv Killers

NEW DELHI: In a dramatic political move that is bound to put Congress in a tricky situation in the election times, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa Wednesday ordered the release of all seven people jailed for plotting the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, meaning they could walk free in three days.

Those to be released include the three whose death sentence was commuted by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The court had noted in the judgement that though life imprisonment was till the end of life, it was upon the governments to further remit the sentence. 

Announcing her decision in the state assembly Jayalalithaa went a step further to add that if the union government failed to respond to the decision in three days, the state government will exercise the powers to free them.

Chief minister announced the decision one day after the country’s top court lifted the death sentences on three of those convicted over Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991.

“Considering that they have spent over 23 years in prison, the cabinet decided to immediately release Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan under the powers vested with the state government,” Jayalalithaa said, according to news agency Press Trust of India (PTI), after holding an emergency cabinet meeting. 

Jayalalithaa said she would also release four others including Sriharan’s wife Nalini, B Robert Payas, S Jayakumar and P Ravichandran – taking into consideration the over two-decades long incarceration that they have already underwent.

Rajiv was killed by a female Tamil suicide bomber in Tamil Nadu. 

Chief Ministers's chief political rival K Karunanidhi congratulated her for the bold move and urged centre to support the decision taken by the state government.

Jayalalithaa, quoted by PTI, said the cases would be sent to the federal government immediately for its approval of the release as required, since all seven were originally prosecuted by a national agency. 

Her administration would go ahead with their release if the Congress-led federal government failed to respond within three days, she said.

The Congress party is headed by Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia and his son Rahul is the frontman for the party’s campaign in elections due by May.

Rajiv’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi in 2008 visited one of those jailed in Tamil Nadu for her father’s murder, seeking to come to terms with her loss. Sonia has in the past argued against their execution. 

Rajiv Gandhi became India’s youngest-ever prime minister after his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated in October 1984 by her Sikh body guards following army operation on Silkh holy Goldren Temple. Trans Asia News

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