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Supreme Court of India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the premature release of six convicts, including Nalini Sriharan and R P Ravichandran, serving life sentence in the assassination case of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and B V Nagarathna said the judgement of the top court in the case of A G Perarivalan, one of the convicts in the case, is equally applicable in their matter.

“In so far as the applicants before us are concerned, their death sentences were commuted to life on account of delay…We direct that all the appellants are deemed to have served their sentence…The applicants are thus directed to be released unless required in any other case,” the bench said.

Nalini and Ravichandran had moved the top court seeking premature release.

Both of them had challenged a June 17 order of the Madras High Court, which rejected their pleas for early release, and cited the apex court judgment ordering the release of co-convict Perarivalan.

Nalini, Ravichandran, Santhan, Murugan, Perarivalan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar were sentenced to life terms in the case.

Invoking its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution, the top court had on May 18 ordered the release of Perarivalan, who had served over 30 years in jail.

Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at a poll rally.

In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhan and Sriharan.

However, in 2014, it commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment along with those of Santhan and Murugan on grounds of delay in deciding their mercy petitions. Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2001 on the consideration that she has a daughter.

The Tamil Nadu government had earlier favoured the premature release of Nalini and Ravichandran, saying its 2018 advice for remission of their life sentence is binding upon the governor.

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