Nalini Sriharan, a life convict in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, walked out of the Vellore special prison for women on Thursday on a month’s leave for her daughter Harithra’s wedding arrangements.
She stepped out of prison on Thursday morning in an orange and red silk saree. However, there was no one to receive her. Nalini’s daughter, who studies medicine in the United Kingdom, is expected to join her only if her father Murugan and Nalini want her to return to Tamil Nadu.
According to conditions imposed by authorities, during her parole, Nalini cannot leave Vellore and is not allowed to meet politicians or speak to media.
The Madras High Court had granted Nalini parole earlier this month in a hearing which she argued for herself. Asking for a parole for six months time, Nalini Sriharan made an emotional appeal and argued she had been wrongfully punished in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Nalini was escorted to the residence of deputy general secretary of Dravida Iyakka Tamilar Peravai, Singarayar in Rangapuram, 13 kilometres from prison. She was received there by her mother Padmavathi, with an arathi plate.
Singarayar said, “Her eyes welled up with tears and she broke down as she entered the house. She did not talk much as she is meeting people outside the prison after 28 years.”
Since her arrest in 1991, this is the third time she has left prison. Earlier, in 2016, Nalini got a day’s parole on two occasions – on February 24 and March 8 – to attend last rites for her father.
Nalini’s lawyer P Pugazhenthi said Nalini chose to stay at Vellore as she wants to meet her husband Murugan in Central Prison and discuss about their daughter’s marriage. “Nalini’s daughter Harithra stays in London and she will come to Tamil Nadu, only if Nalini and Murugan asks her to come. The marriage dates are not fixed yet,” Pugazhenthi said.
He added that they may seek permission to extend the parole for few more days, if needed.
Since Nalini was pregnant at the time of her arrest, Haritha was born in the Vellore prison and was raised there for four years. Later, Harithra was raised in Coimbatore before being taken to Sriharan’s mother to Sri Lanka. She later moved to London during the strife which rocked Lankan.
Nalini will be staying with her mother and a few relatives are expected to visit her in a few days. She is also likely to file a plea in the Vellore Central Prison to meet Murugan.
Meanwhile, the Rangapuram Street where Nalini will be staying for the nest 30 days wore a deserted look on Thursday. When The Federal reached out to few of the residents, they said they had given a no objection for Nalini’s stay here.
“She has been languishing in the prison for over two decades. Only now they have given her leave to spend time with her family. So, when the police asked if we had any objection, we said no and gave a no objection letter, says Jayaseelan, Singarayar’s neighbour.
“After most of the house owners denied to let Nalini say fearing frequent police visits, I gave it on humanitarian grounds as I have been associated with the Dravidian movement,” said Singarayar.
On January 28, 1998, a special court sentenced 26 of the 41 accused to death in the former PM’s assassination case. In an appeal in May 11, 1999 the Supreme Court upheld death sentence to Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini and commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment for Robert, Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran who are serving life imprisonment in now.
The remaining 18 were freed as they were not held guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy, but served the punishment for other charges including Passport Act and Arms Act.
In 2000, Supreme Court commuted Nalini’s death sentence to life imprisonment. Since, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan punishment was not commuted, all the three wrote to the President for mercy.
However, in 2014, citing delay in disposing their mercy petitions, an Apex Court bench comprising then Chief Justice P Sathasivam commuted the death sentence of all the three to life. Following this former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had passed a resolution in the Assembly that all the seven serving life sentences would be released.
However, as the kin of those who were killed in the suicide attack on Rajiv Gandhi filed a case against their release in court, it was kept in abeyance. A year ago, after Supreme Court disposed a plea of the family members. In September 2018, Tamil Nadu cabinet adopted another resolution to release all the seven convicts.