The Madras High Court today granted a one-month parole to Nalini Sriharan, one of the seven convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. She had sought a six month leave from jail to arrange for the wedding of her daughter, who is pursuing medicine in the United Kingdom.
The court exempted her from payment of charges for police security during this period and directed her to comply with all norms, saying she was not a woman of means. Nalini told the judges that she was made to pay Rs 16,000 for security when she had come out on parole for the last rites of her father.
Clad in a pink sari, a confident Nalini walked into the court with a bundle of papers in her hand. Thanking the court for the opportunity to argue her case herself and for commuting the death sentences of all the convicts in the assassination, she spoke in Tamil and occasionally in English, reading from her prepared statement. She was in tears a few times.
Arguing she was a poor innocent punished wrongfully in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Nalini made an emotional appeal.
"I could not look after my daughter. I did not fulfil my motherly responsibilities," she said.
"I did not fulfil my responsibilities to my father before he died. Now I have to meet my family for my daughter's wedding. I have to arrange for finances," she added.
Before giving orders, Justice MM Sundaresh, one of the two judges who were hearing the case, told her that she would get only a month long respite from her life sentence. "According to the government rules, there can be a maximum leave only for thirty days," he said.
Nalini was initially handed a death sentence for providing shelter to Rajiv Gandhi's killers. But intervention by Mr Gandhi's wife and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi led to her sentence commuted to life imprisonment after she delivered a girl in jail. The Supreme Court later commuted the death sentence of the other six convicts on death row, blaming inordinate delay by the President in disposing off their clemency petitions.
All the seven convicts are in jail for close to 28 years. Though the Tamil Nadu cabinet has recommended their release, the Governor has not yet announced decision on the matter.