The Supreme Court on Friday, 11 November, directed that six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case be released before completion of their life imprisonment term. The Congress party has strongly criticised the court's decision.
“In so far as the applicants before us are concerned, their death sentences were commuted to life on account of delay…We direct that all the appellants are deemed to have served their sentence…The applicants are thus directed to be released unless required in any other case,” a bench of Justices B R Gavai and B V Nagarathna were quoted as saying.
The convicts had cited the apex court judgment ordering the premature release of co-convict AG Perarivalan. Perarivalan had been released on 18 May this year by the Supreme Court, which had invoked its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on 21 May 1991 in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.
What Has the Congress Said?
The Congress has called the Supreme Court's decision to free the assassins of Gandhi "totally unacceptable."
"The decision of the Supreme Court to free the remaining killers of former PM Rajiv Gandhi is totally unacceptable and completely erroneous. The Congress Party criticises it clearly and finds it wholly untenable. It is most unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not acted in consonance with the spirit of India on this issue," said Congress General Secretary In-charge of Communications Jairam Ramesh in a statement.
In February this year, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said in an interaction with students in Puducherry that he has forgiven his father's assassins.
"I felt tremendous pain, but I don't feel anger, I don't feel any hatred or any anger. I forgive," he had said.
Celebrations Afoot for Nalini
Meanwhile, in Nalini's hometown Vellore, people burst crackers to welcome the order. In Tamil Nadu, a section has been vociferously supporting the release of the convicts in a mark of solidarity with the Sri Lankan Tamil cause.
In Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had started a war against the state over the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils. The Liberation Tigers were a militant outfit which used violent means.
The Tigers fought for the formation a separate state for Sri Lankan Tamils, a sentiment which was widely supported in Tamil Nadu.
LTTE Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed by Sri Lankan armed forces in 2009. Shortly after, the outfit was wipeout from Sri Lanka.
However, sentiment of a vast section of people in Tamil Nadu has been supportive of the Sri Lankan Tamils' fight for rights in Sri Lanka. To acknowledge this popular sentiment, successive governments in Tamil Nadu had demanded the release of those convicted of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. Both the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had supported the release of the prisoners.
While the target of the assassination was Rajiv Gandhi, 19 others, including police officials, had died in the blast. Relatives of those who were killed and those who were seriously injured have been agitating against the release of the convicts.