Putting an end to weeks of speculation surrounding the release of the seven convicts in the assassination of then-sitting Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to recommend their release to the Governor. In a cabinet meeting of state ministers on Sunday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami decided to recommend the release of Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhan, Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran- all serving life terms for assassinating then-sitting Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
Addressing media persons after the meeting concluded, TN Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said, "We have used Article 161 and recommended to the Governor today (Sunday) on the basis of that. The law is interpreted by the Supreme Court. Their direction is most important. Based on that only state has powers. That's why we have decided to recommend this under the leadership of the Chief Minister. Today itself we will immediately recommend to the Governor. If we have gathered on Sunday, then you need to understand the importance of it."
Stating that the Governor had to 'mandatorily' accept the state's recommendation, the Minister said, "The Governor will definitely have to accept the cabinet's decision. Governor represents the state. He's the executive for the state. Whatever decision was taken by the government will be executed by the Governor."
When asked to respond to the fact that the convicts killed a sitting Prime Minister, Jayakumar said, "CBI probe and investigation is past. What is present? The Tamil people want their release."
The decision comes days after the Supreme Court asked Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit to consider the mercy plea of one of the convicts, AG Perarivalan.
According to Article 161, Governors have the power to grant pardons and suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases
On Thursday, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Naveen Sinha and KM Joseph disposed of the Centre's petition regarding Tamil Naduâ€™s proposal to release the convicts.
On August 10, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that it will not agree to the release of the prisoners. It maintained that remission of their sentence will set a 'dangerous precedent' and have 'international ramifications'.
On August 20 this year, 47-year old Perarivalan told the apex court that no decision has been taken as yet on his mercy petition filed before the Governor.
The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to take a decision on a 2016 letter of the Tamil Nadu government seeking its concurrence on the release of the convicts. Months before the former chief ministerâ€™s Jayalalithaaâ€™s demise, her chief secretary K Gnanadesikan was directed to write to the BJP government informing that the state was ready to release the convicts - Murugan, Santhan, Robert Payas, Nalini, Ravichandran and Perarivalan.
He had filed a mercy petition in 2015 to the then Governor under Article 161 of the constitution. Article 161 gives the constitutional head the power to pardon an offence or suspend the sentence of a convicted individual.
In 2014, former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced in the state assembly that her government will ensure the release of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case irrespective of the Centre's decision in the matter.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by Dhanu, a woman suicide bomber belonging to the LTTE.