"I firmly believe there is no need for capital punishment," AG Perarivalan said hours after the Supreme Court ordered for his release, a judgement that was received with great jubilation by his family, relatives and several pro-Tamil outfits in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.
Initially handed capital punishment by a special court in Chennai which was later commuted to life term, Perarivalan said he first wants to "breathe," apparently the air of freedom, before thinking about his future.
"I have just come out. It has been 31 years of legal battle. I have to breathe a bit. Give me some time," he said when reporters asked how did he feel as a "free bird" and what were his future plans.
"I clearly believe there is no need for capital punishment. Not just for mercy...many justices including Supreme Court chief justices have said so and there are many examples. Everybody is human," he said, with his mother Arputhammal and relatives by his side.
"Many unknown people have supported us. I don't know many people. I thank all of them," an emotional Arputhammal said.
Welcoming the judgement, Chief Minister M K Stalin said it could find a place in the "Justice-law-political-administrative history." He recalled the state had placed firm arguments in the court on Perarivalan's plea before the Supreme Court.
Activists of Pro-Tamil outfits came out on the streets in several parts of the state, raised slogans hailing the Supreme Court verdict and condemned the inaction of the Governor on the 2018 cabinet recommendation to release him and six others, besides the Centre's alleged complacency in the matter.
Perarivalan, presently on bail, had been granted parole earlier on many occasions by the state government.
The others undergoing life term in the case are Murugan, Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Jayachandran and Nalini.
BJP state president K Annamalai said the party "accepts" the Supreme Court verdict, saying the relief to Perarivalan was given by the Supreme Court based on its extraordinary power under Article 142.
"We also believe the Supreme Court will not allow compromising with our unity, security and integrity," he said in a tweet.
CPI General Secretary D Raja said his party welcomed the verdict. He also wanted the Governor to act in accordance with the Constitution and said the verdict raised many questions about the office of the gubernatorial post.
Political leaders including MDMK founder Vaiko and PMK leader S Ramadoss welcomed his release.
AIADMK MP P Ravindranath also welcomed the Supreme Court verdict. The K Palaniswami-led AIADMK cabinet had in 2018 recommended to the then Governor Banwarilal Purohit, the release of all seven convicts in assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed by a suicide bomber of the LTTE at an election meeting in Tamil Nadu's Sriperumbudur in 1991.