This Article is From Feb 28, 2014

Rajiv Gandhi killing: Supreme Court stops release of four convicts serving life term, including Nalini Sriharan

Four Rajiv Gandhi assassins who are serving life terms

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today stopped the Tamil Nadu government from releasing four of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassins who are serving life terms.

Last week, the court had stopped the state from freeing the other three assassins - Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan - who have been spared execution because of an exceptional delay in a decision on their mercy plea.

The court today said it will decide, within a week, on the fight between the Centre and Tamil Nadu over who can decide on freeing all seven convicts.

"Our intention is not to stop the release. We will lay down guidelines. Every state must be aware of rules and procedure to be followed," said the Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam.

Tamil Nadu had said that it would be within its rights to release Murugan's wife Nalini Sriharan, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, who are serving life terms.

"If we wanted, we could have released these four. Why should the Centre rush to court?" the state government argued in court, which responded by asking, "Who is rushing? You or the Centre?"

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's announcement that she would let off the seven convicts was seen by critics as a blatantly populist move ahead of the national election three months away.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said freedom for the convicts would be contrary to all principles of justice as Rajiv Gandhi's assassination was "an attack on the soul of India."

The seven people have spent over 20 years in jail. Nalini, who was earlier on death row, was granted mercy on the intervention of Rajiv Gandhi's widow and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 by a woman operative of the Lankan Tamil separatist outfit LTTE, who greeted him with a bomb strapped to her chest during a rally in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. For years, the case has been linked to Tamil sentiment and all regional parties in the state have campaigned for the convicts' release.