President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected the Tamil Nadu government’s request to release the seven prisoners convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991.
Mr. Kovind conveyed to the government that the “Centre doesn’t concur with its view” to release the prisoners. The President is bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers in such matters.
In the last four years, the State government has written twice to the Home Ministry to pardon the convicts and release them on humanitarian grounds.
“The President has rejected the Tamil Nadu government’s plea to free the prisoners on the advice of the Home Ministry. This has been conveyed to the State. The assassins of the former Prime Minister of India cannot walk free under any circumstances,” a top official told The Hindu .
On February 14, following the Supreme Court’s directions, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sought details on eight grounds from the State to “facilitate further” its request to release the convicts. It asked the State to furnish details such as the “physical and mental status of the convicts,” their “economic and social background” and the previous cases registered against them. The convicts are V. Sriharan alias Murugan, A.G. Perarivalan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Ravichandran and Nalini.
On January 23, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court gave three months to the Home Ministry to decide on Tamil Nadu’s proposal to remit the sentences of the life-term convicts. The Centre moved court against the State’s proposal, which dates back to February 19, 2014, where it said the State had decided to remit their sentences as they had already served more than 20 years in prison.
Under Section 435 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the State government has to consult the Centre before releasing prisoners who were tried by the CBI or under a central legislation.
On March 2, 2016, then T.N Chief Secretary K. Gnanadesikan sent another communication to the MHA that it had received petitions from the convicts with requests to release them since they have spent more than 20 years in prison. “The Government, after taking into consideration the petitions of the seven convicts, has decided to remit the sentences of life imprisonment as they have already served imprisonment for 24 years,” Mr. Gnanadesikan's letter said.
In December 2015, the Supreme Court said the State government had no power to release the convicts without the Centre’s concurrence.