Tamil Nadu government opposes Nalini’s plea for release


Chennai : The Tamil Nadu government, citing “improper technical grounds”, Friday opposed a plea for the premature release of Nalini Sriharan and three others convicted for the 1991 killing of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

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The Madras High Court has postponed the hearing on the plea to Sep 17.

Appearing for the state government, advocate general G. Masilamani reiterated its opposition to the premature release of the convicts.

On its part, the central government filed an application seeking time to file a detailed response to the notice issued by the court.

Judge S. Nagamuthu last week ordered the state government to file its counter-plea during Friday’s hearing.

Nalini and the three others were sentenced to death in 2000 for assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

Nalini moved the Madras High Court in 2000 challenging the then state governor Fathima Beevi’s rejection of appeal for clemency on the grounds that it was not recommended by the Tamil Nadu cabinet.

Later, then chief minister Karunanidhi’s cabinet cited Supreme Court Justice K.T. Thomas’s dissenting judgement against Nalini’s capital punishment and recommended its commutation.

Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to the governor that Nalini’s case should be considered favourably since the Supreme Court had ruled earlier that both the parents – Nalini and her husband Sriharan – of a minor child ought not to be hanged.

Since Nalini and Sriharan had been convicted in the same case, Govindarajan of the Madras High Court upheld her appeal in 2000 on the basis of recommendations of the then cabinet and asked governor Beevi to reconsider which resulted in the commutation.

Nalini’s lawyers told IANS that among other things, Karunanidhi cannot contradict himself in the same case and deny her liberty, especially after she has spent more than the usual maximum period of a life sentence in prison and demanded her immediate release.

The other convicts have filed a similar appeal, saying that waiting for the hangman indefinitely is worse than death.

The appellants’ reasoning is incorrect since a death sentence commuted to life means the convict ought to spend his/her life in prison, government legal sources told IANS.

“As regards other death-row convicts blaming the indeterminate delay as worse than hanging, one should know the central cabinet will speak its mind in the matter and will inform the president of India, with whom clemency petitions are waiting for disposal, of its decision. Blaming the interregnum by the accused in the first place is convoluted reasoning,” a legal source said.