Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on Tuesday wrote to President Ramnath Kovind seeking to remit the life sentence of seven convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi Assasination case and immediately release them. "I wish to bring to your kind notice that we have been demanding the early release of Mrs. S. Nalini, Mr. Murugan, Mr. Santhan, Mr. A.G. Perarivalan, Mr. Jayakumar, Mr. Robert Payas, and Mr. P. Ravichandran, who were all convicted in the case of assassination of Thiru. Rajiv Gandhi, Hon'ble former Prime Minister of India, as they have been undergoing the agony of imprisonment for about three decades," Stalin wrote, requesting the President to accept the state government's recommendation to remit their sentence.
The seven convicts â€” S Nalini, Murugan, Santhan, AG Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, and P. Ravichandran â€” were arrested in 1991 after the assassination of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The convicts were part of LTTE, and Tamil Nadu has passed several resolutions in the state Assembly to release them. Releasing the convicts was also part of DMK's manifesto ahead of the elections earlier this year.
The CM pointed out in his letter to the President that Naliniâ€™s original death sentence was commuted to life, along with that of three other convicts. He also said that releasing the convicts was the will of the people of Tamil Nadu. â€śThe majority of the political parties in Tamil Nadu have been requesting for the remission of the remainder of their sentence and for immediate release of all the seven convicts as they have been incarcerated for about three decades. It is also the will of the people of Tamil Nadu,â€ť the letter read.
"The purported obstacle for exercise of the power of remission was the pendency of the investigation by the Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency of CBI. It has been clarified by the respective stands of the Union Government and CBI before the Hon'ble Supreme Court that there is no connection between the remission of the sentence and investigation," Stalin said.
On September 9, 2018, Tamil Nadu state Cabinet recommended to the Governor to pardon all the seven convicts and consider an early release. However, the Governor did not act on the plea for two years following which Perarivalan moved the Supreme Court. The SC also termed the Governor's delay as "extraordinary". However, Governor Banwarilal Purohit in February 2021 refrained from taking a call on the early release of Perarivalan.
The Tamil Nadu Governor left the decision to President Ram Nath Kovind. "Thereafter, the Hon'ble Governor has decided that the Hon'ble President of India is the competent authority to decide on the plea of remission of sentence of these seven persons, and therefore has forwarded the State Government's recommendation to Your Excellency's office," Stalin wrote.
Stalin also said that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need to decongest prisons. â€śThese seven persons have already suffered untold hardship and agony in the past three decades and have paid a heavy price. There has already been an inordinate delay in the consideration of their pleas for remission. In the present circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Courts are also recognising the need to decongest prisons,â€ť he stated in the letter.