The Madras High Court on Friday granted 30 days of ordinary leave to S. Nalini, 52, a life convict in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case. The order was passed after she argued her case in person and made a fervent plea to the judges in a choked voice that she may be allowed to step out of prison for some days to make arrangements for the marriage of her daughter, who is residing in London.
Nalini had many years ago come out on short paroles of a day each to attend her brother Bhagyanathan’s wedding and her father’s last rites.
Justices M.M. Sundresh and M. Nirmal Kumar took judicial notice that the State Cabinet itself had on September 9 last year made a recommendation to the Governor to release all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. “If, in the view of the government, the petitioner can be allowed to lead a normal life and she would not be a hindrance to the society, the request for leave can never be objected to,” they said.
The judges also directed the State government to bear the expenses of providing escort to her during the period of leave since she expressed difficulty in paying the charges.
“There is no material to hold that she is a woman of means. Admittedly, she and her husband are in incarceration for decades. Asking the petitioner to pay the cost would in a way take away the very order passed by us when it is impossible of compliance,” they said.
Nalini had sought 60 days’ leave
The judges pointed out that Rule 16 of the Tamil Nadu Suspension of Sentence Rules of 1982 provides for extending escort at State cost to poor prisoners.
The Division Bench directed the Home Secretary not to insist upon any cost from her. They also recorded her statement that she shall refrain from giving interviews to the media and meeting leaders of political parties or any other organisation during her leave period.
Though State Public Prosecutor A. Natarajan did not raise any serious objection for grant of leave, he insisted on submission of a bond along with two sureties as required under Rule 25 of the 1982 Rules. Accepting his submission, the judges directed the convict to furnish to the prison authorities, within a week, the particulars regarding the sureties and the place where she intended to stay during the leave period of 30 days.
“Due verification (regarding the genuineness of sureties) can be made by the respondents within a period 10 days thereafter. After such verification, the petitioner shall be granted ordinary leave for a period of 30 days. On completion of 30 days, the petitioner will have to surrender before the respondents at about 5 pm on the next day,” they said and directed the High Court Registry to list the case next month for reporting compliance.
In her affidavit, the convict had actually sought for six months of leave but the judges restricted it to 30 days because that was the maximum period of leave that could be granted at a time under the rules though there were provisions of extending it further.
Reading out a prepared written speech in Tamil in the open court, the convict said, she was pregnant at the time of her arrest 28 years ago and gave birth to a baby girl in prison.
The girl was in prison till four years of age and then went out to pursue her studies in Coimbatore for some time. Subsequently, she was taken to Sri Lanka by her grandparents and then flew to the United Kingdom. Stating that she, as a parent, could not attend to any of the needs of her daughter, now 27, the convict, with moist eyes, pleaded with the court that she should be allowed to at least find a groom for her and make preparations for the marriage.