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Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Nalini, four other convicts walk out of jail after three decades

All six convicts serving life terms for the assassination in 1991 of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were set free by the Supreme Court on Friday.

Nalini Sriharan, one of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, being released from prison in Vellore. (PTI)

A day after the Supreme Court ordered the release of the six remaining convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Nalini Sriharan, who was the only one to have witnessed the bombing on May 21, 1991, was released from Vellore jail on Saturday.

Her husband, Murugan, and three other convicts  (Santhan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar) were also released, news agency PTI reported. Murugan and Santhan were released from the Vellore central prison, while Payas and Jayakumar were released from the Puzhal prison in Chennai. All four are Sri Lankan nationals and were taken to the special refugee camp in Tiruchirappalli to be lodged there.

Along with Nalini, the SC on Friday had freed T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, V Sriharan alias Murugan, Robert Payas, Jayakumar, and Ravichandran alias Ravi. In May this year, the court ordered the release of A G Perarivalan while exercising its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.

This means that this year, all seven individuals whose convictions were upheld by the SC in 1999, have been freed.

The SC bench on Friday noted that the six had spent over three decades in jail in the case and said that their conduct was satisfactory in this period during which they had pursued studies as well. On Nalini, the court took into account that she was a woman.

In 1998, a TADA court had sentenced 26 of the 41 accused to death, including 12 who died in the blast or during the investigation.

In May 1999, the SC freed 19 of them, while upholding the death sentences of Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan, and Nalini, and commuting the death sentences of Payas, Ravichandran, and Jayakumar to life.

In 2000, Nalini’s death sentence was commuted based on the Tamil Nadu government’s recommendation and an appeal by Sonia Gandhi.

The other three death sentences were commuted in 2014.

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Nalini and Murugan were arrested about a month after Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

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Her confession statement, taken under TADA custody, said she hosted two Sri Lankan women, Subha and Dhanu, who carried out the attack. She was also accused of taking them to buy the clothes they wore on the day of the killing, of knowing their plan in advance, and of accompanying them to Rajiv’s election rally. The chargesheet said Nalini, Subha, and the LTTE mastermind, Sivarasan, fled after Dhanu blew herself up.

First published on: 12-11-2022 at 18:23 IST
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