Nalini release from jail
Nalini Sriharan walks out of jail

Nalini, other Rajiv Gandhi case convicts released from prison

A day after the Supreme Court ordered freeing of six remaining life-term convicts in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case after 31 years in jail, five of them — Nalini Sriharan, her husband Murugan, and Santhan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar — were formally released from Tamil Nadu jails on Saturday evening.

Nalini, in her first comments after being released, said: “Not coming to public life, thank Tamils.”

“It’s a new life for me with my husband and daughter,” she said after coming out. “I thank Tamil people for supporting me,” she said. She denied that she’d enter public life. She also thanked the state and central governments.

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: SC orders release of Nalini, five others

A day after SC decision

The Supreme Court had in May used its extraordinary powers to free one of the seven convicts, AG Perarivalan. On November 11, the court set the rest of the convicts free saying that the same order applied to them. It noted that the Tamil Nadu cabinet had recommended to the Governor in 2018 that the convicts be freed, and the Governor was bound by that.

Nalini, who was on parole already, visited a local police station to mark her mandatory attendance. After completing formalities at Vellore’s special prison for women, she was released and went to the central prison from where her husband V Sriharan, alias Murugan, and Santhan were released.

Murugan and Santhan, both being Sri Lankan nationals, were taken in a police vehicle to a refugee camp in Tiruchirappalli. Two other Lankan nationals — Robert Payas and Jayakumar — were also taken to the refugee camp from the Puzhal prison where they were released. Perarivalan and his mother Arputhammal received these two at the Puzhal prison.

Future plans

It was not immediately clear if Nalini would stay in Chennai or join her daughter in London. “She will take a call on this,” her lawyer told news agency PTI. Asked about the fate of her husband Murugan, the lawyer said the state government would decide on deportation. Convict Santhan had already expressed his intent to return to Sri Lanka, he added.

The Congress has strongly objected to the Supreme Court order freeing Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins. It said the party did not agree with the views of Sonia Gandhi and her children, who’ve been votaries of mercy to the convicts.

In 2000, Nalini’s sentence was reduced to a life term. Later in the year 2014, the sentence of the other six convicts were also reduced, and the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalitha recommended their release.

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Among 6 convicts, the killer who looked innocent

Former PM Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group during a public rally.

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