The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea against the Tamil Nadu government's decision to prematurely release seven killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The court found no merit in the plea filed by relatives of those who had died with Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbudur in May 1991 when LTTE suicide bomber Dhanu exploded herself.A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said: "All aspects were covered in the earlier Constitution bench verdict in the case and nothing survives in the case".
In 2014, the then J Jayalalitha-led government had decided to release seven convicts in the case. They are Perarivalan, V. Sriharan alias Murugan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santham, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, P. Ravichandaran and Nalini.Of the seven, only Ravichandran and Nalini are Indian nationals. The others are Sri Lankan Tamils.
The case has had a chequered history. The special CBI court had in 1998 convicted all the 28 accused and sentenced them to death. On appeal, the Supreme Court convicted most for lesser offences, set off time spent in jail against sentence and released them. The apex court confirmed the death sentence for the seven principal accused.
However, Tamil Nadu Governor commuted the sentence on Nalini on a plea by Sonia Gandhi that she was then an expectant mother and hanging her would kill the baby in the womb.
Later , the apex court commuted the sentences of six others to life on the ground of inordinate delay on the part of the Governor in disposing of their mercy petitions.
In September 2018, the Supreme Court asked the Governor to take an early decision on a remission petition filed by Perarivalan in December 2015.
The Governor, however, sat on the plea as the Modi Government consistently opposed their release on the ground that it would have wide ramifications.
The Governor cited another reason for keeping the decision pending--a case filed by relatives of policemen and others who died along with Rajiv Gandhi in the bomb blast.
Now that the Supreme Court has dismissed their plea, decks have been cleared for the release of the seven who have already spent more than 28 years in jail.
Counsel for Perarivalan told reporters in New Delhi that the Tamil Nadu Government should update the Governor on the development and remind him about the pendency of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet resolution for their premature release.