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High Court rejects Nalini's plea

File photo of Nalini, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The Tamil Nadu govt. on Monday rejected Nalini's request for premature release from jail.

File photo of Nalini, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The Tamil Nadu govt. on Monday rejected Nalini's request for premature release from jail.  

Dismissing an appeal by Nalini, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, challenging a single Judge's order, the Madras High Court on Tuesday said she is a “life convict in a crime that was cunning in conception, meticulous in planning and ruthless in taking away the life of the former Prime Minister.”

She could not seek premature release as a right, though she had a right to seek consideration of her plea, the court said.

In its 33-page judgment, a Division Bench comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and K.K.Sasidharan, concluded that the Tamil Nadu Governor, exercised the power under Article 161 of the Constitution (Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc., and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases), on the advice of the council of Ministers, in a judicious manner.

“A distinct class”

The Judges said Nalini was originally awarded death sentence. Her sentence was commuted to one of life imprisonment purely on humanitarian grounds. She constitutes a distinct class and could not claim equality with those sentenced to life imprisonment.

Earlier, Nalini had challenged the verdict of a single Judge turning down her prayer to quash a clause in a G.O dated September 14, 2006 and consequently to direct the authorities to consider her case for premature release. She is now lodged in the Special Prison for Women, Vellore.

She submitted that since the death sentence was commuted to one of life imprisonment, she should complete 14 years of imprisonment for premature release. Though she had completed 14 years on June 17, 2005, her name was not considered in 2005, 2006 and 2007. By the G.O., the government granted premature release of 472 life convicts who had completed 10 years and more. But her name was not considered. This was on the ground that cases which fell under Section 435 (State Government to act after consultation with Central Government in certain cases) were not entitled to premature release. (The assassination case was investigated by the CBI).

The appellant's counsel, M.Radhakrishnan, said the clause in the G.O. was illegal. It violated Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

Government policy

Advocate-General P.S.Raman argued it was the government's policy not to consider the premature release of such life convicts on en masse release whose cases fell under section 435 Cr.P.C.

The Bench said the classification between life convicts falling under the scope of section 435 Cr.P.C and life convicts falling outside it was a reasonable classification “to protect the interest of society since the nature of the offence also plays a major role in considering the case of premature release of the convicts by exercising the remission powers of the government.” Even the Prison Advisory Board rejecting her request for premature release would weigh against her.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2020 12:36:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/High-Court-rejects-Nalinis-plea/article16364484.ece

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