Convict in Rajiv Gandhi assassination seeks release


New Delhi : A convict serving life imprisonment for his role in the May 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi has appealed to the Supreme Court for remission of his sentence as he has served more than 16 years.

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The apex court has issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government on the plea of P.R. Ravichandran.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam issued notice on the plea by Ravichandran, who contended that despite having served more than 14 years in jail he was being denied the statutory benefit of remission of his sentence in spite of his good behaviour in jail.

A convict, sentenced to life in jail, is legally supposed to be condemned to the prison for his entire life, but after serving 14 years of jail term he is eligible to be considered for remission of his sentence and release from the jail.

Ravichandran moved the apex court challenging a Tamil Nadu government decision not to remit his sentence despite having spent over 16 years in jail.

An advisory board, constituted to look into the plea of remission of Ravichandran’s sentence, had recommended against his release on the apprehension that he might revive his links with the banned outfit LTTE.

Presently serving his term in solitary confinement in Vellore Central Jail, Ravichandran, in his petition also questioned the state government’s apprehension on the possibility of his reviving links with the LTTE.

In jail since May 11, 1992, since his arrest, Ravichandran also questioned a state government notification that said that those convicted in cases probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation would not be eligible for remission of their sentence.

Terming the government’s decision as “discriminatory” and “arbitrary,” Ravichandran told the apex court that on Sep 14, 2006, the state government had released 472 prisoners who had served merely 10 years.

And on May 2007, it had remitted the sentences of 27 other lifers who had completed 14 years.

He told the apex court that in withholding his release, the state government was ignoring a recommendation by the National Human Right Commission which favoured release of prisoners after completion of 14 years of their term and if they betray no potential to revert back to crime.

To assure the apex court of his “good conduct” and the unlikelihood of his taking to crime after his release, Ravichandran said he was thrice granted parole during his 16-year-jail term, but he never jumped it.

Earlier, he told the state government’s advisory board which examined his plea that he got involved in Gandhi’s assassination merely out of his “youthful exuberance” and not due to any criminal bent of mind.

Since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was probed by the CBI, the state advisory board had also rejected the pleas for remission of three other life convicts, Nalini, Murugan and Robert Pyas.

On a lawsuit by the three, the Madras High Court has ordered the state government to constitute a new advisory board to consider afresh their pleas.

But Ravichandran preferred moving the apex court against rejection of his plea.