Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Review petition in Supreme Court against the order to release the convicts

Pankaj Prasad
Rajiv Gandhi murder case
Rajiv Gandhi murder case

On November 11, the Supreme Court had ordered the release of six accused serving jail terms in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case after being in jail for 31 years.

The Central Government has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its November 11 order releasing all the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. On November 11, the Supreme Court had ordered the release of six accused serving jail terms in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case after being in jail for 31 years. In May this year, the Supreme Court acquitted another convict, AG Perarivalan, citing Article 142.   

21 May 1991 Suicide attack at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu 

On 21 May 1991, a female suicide bomber blew herself up during an election rally at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed in this. The woman was identified as Dhanu. The police had named several people as accused in the case, including Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhan, Ravichandran, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Nalini Sriharan. 

Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict Nalini Sriharan and five other convicts were released from Tamil Nadu jails on Saturday evening, 12 November. Soon after her release from the special prison for women in Vellore, Nalini went to the Vellore Central Jail, where her husband V Sriharan alias Murugan was released. Besides Murugan, Santhan, another convict in the case, was taken to a special refugee camp in the state's Tiruchirappalli in a police vehicle after his release. Both are Sri Lankan citizens. Along with this, Robert Payas and Jayakumar were taken to a special refugee camp after their release from Puzhal jail. Sriharan, Santhan, Robert and Jayakumar are Sri Lankan citizens. Nalini and Ravichandran belong to Tamil Nadu.

What did the Supreme Court say in its decision?

While delivering the judgment on November 11, a bench of Justices BR Gavai and BV Nagaratna had said that the rule under which AG Perarivalan was acquitted was also applicable to others found guilty in the case. While ordering the release of Perarivalan, the court had said, "The decision to release was taken by the state cabinet after relevant deliberations." Using Article-142, it would be appropriate to release the convict. 

These convicts were sentenced to death 

In 1998, Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhan and Nalini were sentenced to death by the TADA court. After not getting any relief, Perarivalan and other convicts moved the Supreme Court. In 1999, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence. In 2014, it was changed to life imprisonment. In 2008, when Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, she passed a cabinet resolution for the release of the seven convicts. Which was sent to the governor. The Governor sent it to the President. Since then the matter was pending. Again in 2018, the Tamil Nadu government passed a resolution for the release of the convicts and sent it to the governor.  

Meanwhile, the convict Perarivalan approached the Supreme Court. In May this year, while hearing the petition of Perarivalan, he was released citing Article 142. After this, the other six convicts also approached the court. Hearing this, the Supreme Court ordered the decision given in Perarivalan's case to be applicable to all other convicts.