President Ram Nath Kovind
has declined the Tamil Nadu government’s request to release the seven convicted prisoners in the assassination case of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
on May 21, 1991.
Rejecting the plea, President Kovind conveyed to the Tamil Nadu government that the “Centre doesn’t concur with its view” to release the prisoners namely, V. Sriharan alias Murugan, A.G. Pearivalan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Ravichandran, and Nalini. This is the second time in the last four years that the State government has written to the Home Ministry to pardon the convicts on humanitarian grounds since they have spent more than 20 years in the prison.
Earlier, on February 19, 2014, the State has released a proposal, wherein it was stated that the State has decided to remit the sentences of the seven convicts. The centre then moved the court against the State’s proposal. Thereafter, on January 23, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court gave three months to the Home Ministry to decide on the State’s proposal. The Ministry of Home Affairs following the apex court’s direction sought details on eight grounds from the State, such as the ‘physical and mental status of the convicts,’ their ‘economic and social background’ and the previous cases registered against them. Further, on March 2, 2016, then T.N. Chief Secretary K. Gnanadesikan
sent another communication to the MHA saying that “the government, after taking into consideration the petitions of the seven convicts, has decided to remit the sentences of life imprisonment as they have already served imprisonment for 24 years.” Under Section 435 of the Criminal Procedure Code
, the State government has to consult the centre before releasing prisoners who were tried by the CBI or under a central legislation. In December 2015, the Supreme Court said the State government has no power to release the convicts without the Centre’s concurrence.