Nalini Sriharan, one of the seven convicts in the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, walked out on parole on Thursday amidst high security. Earlier this month, she was granted one-month parole by the Madras High Court in order to make arrangements for her daughter's wedding. On Thursday morning, she was escorted out of the Vellore Central Prison’s women’s cell accompanied by a posse of police officers. This would be the first time that Nalini, who was accused number one in the case and has served 28 years in prison since 1991, is out on a long parole. She had earlier been granted a 24-hour parole in March 2016 to attend the last rites of her father. Stepping out of the prison, Nalini smiled and waved at media personnel who were stationed outside the gates of the prison campus.
However, as per court orders, she is not to speak to the media or politicians. She will be staying in an independent house in Vellore district, Tamil Nadu. Nalini had lamented to the court that she had been unable to attend to any of her daughter's needs owing to her 28-year-long incarceration. Her daughter currently lives in London with her grandparents.
Nalini Sriharan or Nalini Murugan, a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case walks out on a month-long parole for the first time since 1991 pic.twitter.com/fKOrnjMmIH— Dhanya Rajendran (@dhanyarajendran) July 25, 2019
In April, Nalini had filed a habeas corpus petition in the Madras High Court seeking ordinary leave for six months. In her plea, Nalini had reasoned that every life convict was entitled to one month of ordinary leave after completing two years in prison and she had not availed the leave even once during the past 28 years she had spent in jail. The Madras High Court, in June, allowed Nalini to argue her parole case in person and ordered the Vellore Central Prison authorities to produce her on July 5. She had earlier been granted a 24-hour parole in March 2016 to attend the last rites of her father.
The developments come even as Murugan, Santhan, Robert Payas, Ravichandran, Jayakumar and Perarivalan along with Nalini, await a decision by Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit on their release, as recommended by the state government under Article 161 of the Constitution.
An Indian national and the wife of LTTE member Murugan, Nalini had accompanied Sivarasan, Dhanu, Subha and photographer S Haribabu to the assassination site. Nalini is the sole surviving member of the assassination group as Dhanu and Haribabu died in the explosion while the other two killed themselves later. The judges who were convinced that Nalini was not an innocent bystander convicted her on 16 counts of murder, 121 counts of conspiracy and she was sentenced to death by hanging. Nalini was found guilty of having been aware of the plot and of having agreed to be the stand-by suicide bomber, other than help the team organise for accomodation. However, the judges had different opinions on Nalini, and Justice Thomas was of the belief that Nalini had become a part of the assassination plot only because she was married to Murugan.
While Nalini was initially sentenced to death, it was commuted to life imprisonment after Sonia Gandhi, the wife of the former Prime Minister, sought clemency in 2000 -- for the sake of Nalini's daughter.
Nalini and the other convicts in the case have applied for commutation of their sentences many times and the Tamil Nadu assembly too passed a unanimous resolution saying that sentences of all the convicts in the case may be commuted. Though the resolution was first passed a few years ago when Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister, the Centre opposed it. The decision has been pending with the Tamil Nadu Governor for quite a while now.
On Thursday, however, the Madras High Court rejected a petition filed by Nalini seeking direction to Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit to release the convicts. The High Court dismissed her petition as it cannot order the Governor to take action.