Nalini Sriharan, a convict in former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case, is likely to come out of prison on parole on Tuesday (July 23). She had sought six months’ leave to make arrangements for her daughter Harithra’s wedding, but was granted only 30 days’ leave by the Madras High Court.
“She was expected to be released on Sunday or Monday. However, it is getting delayed due to some reasons and she will be released on Tuesday,” said P Pugalenthi, counsel of Nalini.
Officials in the Vellore Special Prison for Women, where Nalini is lodged, confirmed that she will be out on Tuesday since a few procedures are due.
The court had also directed the prison authorities to clear the procedures in 10 days’ after she furnished details of her stay and other aspects.
After coming out on parole, Nalini is likely to be staying in a place arranged in Vellore district. “She will not reside in Chennai. She will be accompanied by her relatives, including her daughter Harithra, mother Padmavathi and brother Baghyanathan,” sources said.
They also said that Harithra’s wedding date was yet to be confirmed. “Since we were not sure about the date of her release, the wedding date was not fixed,” the sources said.
Nalini was pregnant when she was arrested in connection with the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case in 1991. Her daughter Harithra was born in prison and stayed with her for four years. Later, she was raised by the family of a co-prisoner in Coimbatore.
After a few years, Sriharan’s mother Shomani took her to Sri Lanka, before moving to the UK when the civil war with the LTTE hit its peak there.
Earlier, in 2016, Nalini had gotten parole on two occasions — on February 24, 2016 to attend the cremation of her father Sankaranarayanan, and on March 8, 2016 to pay final rites on the 16th day of her father’s demise.
Nalini, one of the seven convicts in the case, is the longest-serving woman prisoner in India. She was arrested with others in 1991 after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on May 21, 1991, during election campaigning.
The CBI named as many as 41 people in connection with the case, including LTTE chief late Velu Prabhakaran, intelligence wing chief Pottur Amman and a women’s wing leader Akila.
As many as 26 people, including Nalini’s brother Bhagyanathan and mother Padma, faced trial in a sessions court, while three accused were said to be absconding and 12 others, including the main accused Dhanu, Subha and Sivarajan, had died.
In 1998, all the 26 accused, who were awarded capital punishment, appealed before the Supreme Court, which confirmed death sentence to Nalini, Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, and commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment for Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, who are still languishing in jail.
Of the remaining 19, S Shanmugavadivelu was acquitted, while 18 others were acquitted on charges of murder and conspiracy but were held guilty of several other charges, including Arms Act and Passport Act. However, the 18 were released after they served their prison terms.
A year later, the apex court commuted the death penalty of Nalini to life imprisonment. Subsequently, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan sought presidential mercy, but the Supreme Court commuted their sentence in 2014, citing delay in disposing of their mercy petitions by the President.
The court had then said that the Tamil Nadu government could give remission within its powers in accordance with law.
A day after the Supreme Court commuted the life sentence of three, the then-Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa announced in the assembly that all the seven convicts in the case would be released from the prison.
However, relatives of those who were killed in the suicide blast that killed Rajiv Gandhi approached the Supreme Court against their release, following which DMK and MDMK sought their release.
A resolution passed by the state cabinet in September 2018 is pending with the Governor Banwarilal Purohit.