Jayalalithaa’s mercy politics gives Rajiv killers their freedom

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Chennai/New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 20, 2014 02:15 IST
A-combination-picture-of-Murugan-Santhan-and-Perarivalan-convicts-in-the-Rajiv-Gandhi-assassination-case-Agencies-photo

The killers of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi will soon walk free, Tamil Nadu declared on Wednesday, a heavily political decision that angered Congress but is likely to win votes for the state's ruling party.

The seven convicts to be let go from Vellore prison include three -- Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan -- whose death penalty was commuted to a life term by the Supreme Court on Tuesday on the grounds that the central government had taken too long to decide on their mercy pleas. The court had left a decision on remission of the sentences to the state government. The Rajiv files

Read: Jaya’s move only for political gains

Chief minister J Jayalalithaa announced the release after an emergency cabinet meeting, and promptly gave the Centre a deadline to accept her proposal. This could set her on a collision course with the union home ministry, which, a senior source said, was in no hurry to comply.

"'The state government will send the Cabinet's decision to the Centre. If the Centre fails to respond in three days, my government will release them immediately under the power conferred on it by the Constitution,' the CM told the state assembly, adding that it was mandatory for the state to consult Delhi because the case had been investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Read: Families of those who died with Rajiv seek answers

Rajiv's son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, speaking in Amethi, said he was saddened by the decision. " I am personally against the death penalty but this is not about my father. If a Prime Minister's killers are being released, what kind of justice should the common man expect?" he said.

"The Congress Party condemns the decision," chief spokesman Ajay Maken said in a statement, adding that "it was guided solely by political considerations to suit sectarian vested interests".

Watch: Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: TN govt to release convicts

But a measure of how emotive the Sri Lankan Tamil issue still is in Tamil Nadu (TN), and how much of an electoral hot potato, could be gauged by the reaction of finance minister P Chidambaram, a Tamilian, who told NDTV that he was "not unhappy" with the decision.

The seven were jailed after the 1991 assassination of Rajiv by a Sri Lankan suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur near Chennai. The killers owe allegiance to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist movement that targeted Rajiv because he sent Indian troops to help quell their revolt in India's island neighbour.

Hurdles to their release could come from the home ministry.

Read: Rajiv Gandhi killers' commutation must not be politicised

“We have not received any correspondence from the state in this regard but section 435 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is very clear that any case investigated by a central agency under a central law, in this it was TADA, cannot go ahead for remission or commutation of sentence with consulting the Centre. Besides the law says there was a need to a have separate commutation order from the Centre as well,” said a senior-level source.

The mother of Perarivalan, the lone Indian among the three main accused, said she was "very happy" at the TN decision.

Read: Rajiv case convicts Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan rejoice at SC ruling

"Amma (Jayalalithaa) is very considerate about the pain of another mother. She has put an end to my pain,' Aruputhammal told PTI news agency. Perarivalan topped a diploma examination and earned a gold medal in a desk top publishing course in the jail last year.

Underscoring the bitter rivalry in state politics, Jayalalithaa, who heads the ruling AIADMK, accused her main opposition, the DMK -- a one-time ally of the Congress in the Centre -- of dragging its feet on the commutation despite the TN assembly adopting a resolution seeking commutation of the death sentence two and a half years ago.

Read: Will India abolish death penalty?

'Even though the DMK was part of the Congress-led UPA, it did not press the Centre to take a decision,' she charged.

The death sentence of one of the convicts, Murugan's wife Nalini, was commuted to life in 2000 after Congress president Sonia Gandhi recommended her case on humanitarian grounds.

Rahul says he is sad Rajiv Gandhi's killers will walk free

Vaiko, the leader of another state party, MDMK, extended his 'heartiest congratulations and gratitude to the Tamil Nadu government.' He has been a campaigner for the cause of the convicts.

(with agency inputs)

Read: HT Poll finds majority not in favour of Tamil Nadu releasing Rajiv Gandhi's assassins

Read: Release Rajiv Gandhi assassins, demands Karunanidhi

Read: Rajiv Gandhi assassin's mother happy at SC verdict

Read: Govt to abide by SC decision in Rajiv Gandhi case, says Sibal

From Around the Web
Sponsored by Revcontent

also read

Conspiracy against Narsingh, says federation; wrestler wants CBI probe
Show comments

Steps to disable Ad Blocker on your browser


In order to serve content on our website, we rely on advertising revenue which helps us to ensure that we continue to serve high quality unbiased journalism. From our end, we will aim to show clean and unobtrusive ads to provide you with a great browsing experience.

Request to please follow the steps below and once done, please refresh your page.


For Chrome and Ad BlockPlus users

1.Press the ‘ABP’ icon in your toolbar at top right of this page

2. Click on ‘Enabled on this site’; this should now change to ‘Disabled on this site’


chrome



For Chrome and Ad Block users

1.Press the ‘AdBlock’ icon in your toolbar

2.Select the option ‘Don’t run on pages on this domain’ and then click ‘exclude’ on the pop up


chrome

Steps to disable Ad Blocker on your browser


In order to serve content on our website, we rely on advertising revenue which helps us to ensure that we continue to serve high quality unbiased journalism. From our end, we will aim to show clean and unobtrusive ads to provide you with a great browsing experience.

Request to please follow the steps below and once done, please refresh your page.


For Mozilla and AdBlock Plus (ABP) users

1.Press the ‘ABP’ icon in your toolbar

2.Select the option ‘Disable on hindustantimes.com’


chrome

Steps to disable Ad Blocker on your browser


In order to serve content on our website, we rely on advertising revenue which helps us to ensure that we continue to serve high quality unbiased journalism. From our end, we will aim to show clean and unobtrusive ads to provide you with a great browsing experience.

Request to please follow the steps below and once done, please refresh your page.


For Internet Explorer and AdBlock Plus users

1.Press the ‘AdBlock Plus’ icon in your status bar at the bottom of the screen

2.Select the option ‘Disable on hindustantimes.com’


chrome

Steps to disable Ad Blocker on your browser


In order to serve content on our website, we rely on advertising revenue which helps us to ensure that we continue to serve high quality unbiased journalism. From our end, we will aim to show clean and unobtrusive ads to provide you with a great browsing experience.

Request to please follow the steps below and once done, please refresh your page.


For Safari and AdBlock users

1.Press the ‘AdBlock’ icon in your toolbar

2.Select the option ‘Don't run pages on this domain’ and then click 'exclude'


chrome