'I'm happy': Justice KT Thomas on release of convicts in Rajiv Gandhi case

For a few years now, KT Thomas has been a vocal supporter for the release, despite having been a part of the bench that had sentenced four of the accused to the death penalty.
Justice KT Thomans, Perarivalan and Nalini
Justice KT Thomans, Perarivalan and Nalini
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On Friday, November 11, after more than 30 years, the six remaining persons convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, have been released by the Supreme Court. The order for the release of Murugan, Nalini, Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas and P Ravichandran — comes six months after AG Perarivalan was released from prison. Speaking to TNM, Justice KT Thomas, who interestingly was part of the bench that ordered death sentence to the six comvicts, said “I am happy, it is good that they have been released.”

For years now, Justice KT Thomas has been supporting the release of all convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case on legal grounds of remission. In fact in October 2017, he wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi — Rajiv Gandhi’s wife — asking her to show magnanimity and pardon all the convicts. In the case of Perarivalan, who was just 19 years old in 1991, during the assassination, KT Thomas had in the years later, pointed out that the conviction was done on the basis purely of his confession. In 2013, CBI officer Thiyagarajan who had investigated the case went on the record to confirm that only part of Perarivalan’s confession had been recorded, and that the part where he said that he did not know what the two batteries he bought would be used for, was omitted.

Justice Thomas had also told the Indian Express in 2017 that a confession should have been used only as a corroborative piece of evidence, but the other two judges did not agree. Justice KT Thomas told TNM that though he himself has questioned the investigation and the judgment, for now the only point to be considered was the constitutional delay in Perarivalan’s release.

At the time of Perarivalan’s release earlier this year, KT Thomas had told TNM, “I am surprised that the Tamil Nadu Governor did not act on the advice of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet. The Governor’s role according to the Constitution is to act in accordance with the advice of the Council of Ministers. He cannot act independently. He can delay it, but why did he delay it? It is a matter concerning the life of a human being.”

In 1991 Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at an election meeting in Tamil Nadu's Sriperumbudur . Seven people — Murugan alias Sriharan, Nalini, AG Perarivalan, Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas and P Ravichandran were convicted that same year and given death penalties, which was commuted to life imprisonment in later years.

Of the seven convicted persons, Nalini Sriharan is the longest-serving woman prisoner in India. She was 24 years old at the time of her arrest. A woman, who three Supreme Court judges felt, had agreed to become part of an extraordinary crime only because she was in love and had been indoctrinated. Nalini is also the lone surviving member of the five-member team that assassinated Rajiv Gandhi by detonating a human bomb. Later in 2000, Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life. She also went on to complete her degree in Masters in Computer Application (MCA) in 2009.

Welcoming the release of the six people, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, on Friday said, “The decision to release the six convicts is a historical move and in line with the spirit of democracy. This judgement from the Supreme Court is also proof that the decisions that should be taken by the elected government should not be left to those in appointed positions, like the Governor.”

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