The Tamil Nadu Government on Friday told the Madras High Court that no court could give a direction to the Governor to take a decision on the release of the seven Rajiv Gandhi killers as he enjoyed constitutional immunity.
Opposing a petition filed by Nalini Murugan, one of the convicts, for a such a direction to the Governor to take an early decision on the Cabinet decision of Sept 29, 2018 recommending the release of all seven, the Tamil Nadu advocate-general told the court that no such direction be given to the Governor as he enjoyed immunity from court.
Appearing for Nalini, counsel Radhakrishnan said that detaining her in jail for the past eight months since the Government had recommended her release was illegal.
After hearing both sides, a division bench of Justices R Murugesan and C Saravanan adjourned the hearing on whether her petition was admissible. Once it is held to be admissible, the court will issue notices to the State and Central authorities as it is a CBI prosecuted case.
Nalini, the longest serving life convict who has been in jail since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally in Sriperumpudur in summer of 1991, moved the high court for a direction to the Governor’s office for an early decision on the State Cabinet’s decision pending before him.
Citing a Go of November 1994, Nalini argued that she was entitled to premature release on humanitarian grounds as she had spent more than 20 years in jail. The Cabinet decision of September last year favouring the release of the seven was binding on the Governor. And yet, he was sitting on the decision.
Nalini said that she made two representations to the Government as well as the Chief Minister on February 13 and 23 respectively and no decision had been taken. This was a violation of her fundamental right to equality before the law and freedom of movement.
One reason unofficially cited by the Governor’s office was that next kin of 16 civilians and police officers who died in the blast that killed Rajiv Gandhi were against the release of the killers and their petition was pending before the Supreme Court. However, the apex court on May 9 this year dismissed their pleas.
The Governor is now free to take a call on the Tamil Nadu’s recommendation.
But he is dragging his feet as the Modi Government is for zero tolerance towards terrorism. It also feels that release of Rajiv Gandhi killers will lead to similar demands in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in the red corridor or Naxalite dominated States.
Along with Nalini, six other convicts have been in jail for over 28 years. They are her husband Murugan, Perarivalan, Santhan, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.
Of these, only Nalini, Perarivalan and Ravichandran are Indians. The others are Sri Lankan nationals and members of the LTTE which eliminated Rajiv Gandhi.