The Supreme Court’s order on Friday to release the last six convicts marks a closure in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
The order also unravels a key aspect — the role played by the consistent legal fight of A G Perarivalan, another convict who was released in May this year, in the release of the remaining six convicts.
Of those released Friday, two are Indians — Nalini from Chennai and Ravichandran from Madurai. Santhan (T Suthenthiraraja), Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Nalini’s husband Murugan are Sri Lankan nationals.
When arrested in 1991, all of them were teenagers. Nalini and Murugan were married before being arrested. Murugan’s mother in a European country is currently taking care of their daughter, who was born in a prison. Nalini’s mother Padma and brother Bagyanathan were also accused in the case and stayed in jail for around eight years.
Sources in the government said Sri Lankan citizens will be sent back to the country of their choice, “like what happened with other convicts after being released in 1999”.
While Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2001, that of Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan was commuted in early 2014.
If Perarivalan’s release paved the way for the release of the remaining six convicts, grounds considered in his case have largely played in others’ too — their conduct and the aspects of reforms that occurred to them besides health issues.
Talking to The Indian Express on Friday, Justice K T Thomas said he believes in reformatory justice and that he was of the view that all of them should have been released after 14 years.
“There are two schools of thoughts… Retentionists want to keep convicts in prison indefinitely, while abolitionists oppose capital punishment and favour reformatory justice. I would say that I am an abolitionist. At this moment, I can only say that I am happy for the fact that they have been released at least now,” he said.
Justice Thomas was at the forefront to demand the release of all Rajiv case convicts.