Tamil Nadu : Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case
With the Assembly Elections around the corner, CM J Jayalalithaa writes to the Centre demanding the release of convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case
To gain political mileage and preempt opposition making it an election plank, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has shot a letter to the Centre saying her government is ready to release the seven convicts serving life sentence in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. In a letter to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, the state’s Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan informed that ‘The state is informing the Centre about its readiness to release the seven convicts as they have served 24 years in jail’. The letter asked for the centre’s views on the release of the convicts. (The Supreme Court has ruled that state can’t release them without obtaining “concurrence” from the centre.)
AG Perarivalan, V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendra raja alias Saanthan (all three whose death sentences were commuted by the SC in 2014 due to delay in the disposal of their mercy plea), Nalini (whose death sentence was commuted to life by the State government in 2000), Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, are serving life terms. The letter comes after Nalini was released on parole from Vellore jail to attend her father’s funeral. She told reporters that she was confident that CM Jayalalithaa would facilitate the release of all seven people convicted since all of us were innocent.
Tamil Nadu government’s move, as expected, has put opposition parties off their track. It seeks to put DMK in a tight spot for its tie-up with the Congress, with the letter saying the previous government had refused to agree to its move to release the convicts. Karunanidhi requested the Centre to release all the seven accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case on humanitarian grounds. He said the TN government instead of invoking the power of pardon vested upon itself under Article 161 of the Constitution to release them, was playing politics by passing the buck to the centre.
The BJP has been making all out efforts to have a foot hold in the state by opening an account in the state assembly. Unless the centre takes a decision in a hurry, TN government can’t take any meaningful move. Knowing that the Election Commission would announce the poll schedule any time, Jaya took this political gamble. The Centre had made its position amply clear that it was against any remission to Rajiv killers in the Supreme Court. Being so, the state knows the centre would not take any decision in this matter. It is a clear move to create ripples in the DMK-congress alliance. It is an issue that has long been emotive for both the parties for different reasons.
The Congress MPs in Lok Sabha wanted to know the Centre’s response. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh clarified that it would abide by the SC decision on the issue of freeing convicts. He said that Centre would examine the decision. Leader of the Opposition in LokSabha, Mallikarjuna Kharge protested against the decision terming it as “very unfortunate”. If such a practice to release such convicts is allowed, then other states might also make such demands. He said such move should not be allowed for the sake of the country’s unity and integrity. Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters that their party would oppose the TN government’s decision.
Opposition parties in the state, barring the Congress, have supported the TN government’s letter to the Centre urging the release of 7 prisoners. BJP’s TN state unit said a “humane approach” should be taken on the incarceration period of the seven convicts but it should be within the legal framework”. Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko said the TN government has got no real intention of releasing the seven convicts. “If Jayalalithaa is interested in their release, she should convene the cabinet meeting and adopt a resolution of releasing them under Article 161. The resolution should be forwarded to the Governor”, Vaiko explained. It is a tacit move by Jayalalithaa to gain political mileage by playing with people’s sentiment and an attempt to divide the DMK-Congress alliance even before the polls and to cause an embarrassment to the BJP-led central government. TS Venkatesan