- Rajiv Gandhi's killers in jail for 27 years
- People in Tamil Nadu want them released, says minister
- State cabinet passes resolution but decision likely to be with centre
Seven convicts who have spent 27 years in jail for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi should be freed, the Tamil Nadu government has recommended to the Governor.
After a meeting of the state cabinet last evening, minister D Jayakumar said "public sentiment" is in favour of releasing the convicts.
The Supreme Court had earlier asked Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit to decide on the mercy petition of one of the convicts, AG Perarivalan.
The state's ruling AIADMK then decided to recommend that all the convicts be freed as they had also petitioned for early release.
State government sources say the Governor can ask for clarifications and take his time to decide, but is generally bound to accept the recommendation.
But apart from Perarivalan, other convicts' cases may need the centre's approval.
In 2014, when then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa attempted to release the seven convicts, the Centre opposed saying the state can't release them without its consent as they were being investigated by a national agency.
Governments at the centre have opposed their release. On the mercy petition of Perarivalan, who claimed that the CBI had overlooked key evidence in his case, the home ministry told the Supreme Court last month that Rajiv Gandhi's killers cannot be released.
Calling the assassination a "most heinous and brutal crime" the Union home ministry said it would "set a very dangerous precedent and lead to international ramifications by other such criminals in the future".
Rajiv Gandhi's assassination by an LTTE suicide bomber on May 21, 1991, the trial and the conviction have been an emotive subject in Tamil Nadu, one that has often cropped up around elections.
Many in the state believe the convicts played minor roles and were drawn into a plot they knew little about.
The convicts - Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham, Nalini Sriharan, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran - are serving life terms across various jails in Tamil Nadu.
In June, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said he and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have "completely forgiven" their father's killers. In 2008, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had also met Nalini Sriharan, one of the killers, in jail. Nalini's death sentence was commuted to a life term after the birth of her daughter, on the request of Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia Gandhi.
The death sentence of three more convicts was changed to a life term in 2014 by the Supreme Court.