The Madras High Court on Tuesday, June 11 observed that the right of Nalini Sriharan, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, to appear in person to argue on her plea cannot be denied.
Nalini had approached the court seeking its permission for her personal appearance to argue on the petition seeking six months ordinary leave to make arrangements for her daughter's marriage.
Responding to a question raised by the court on the state government's impediment in allowing her to appear in person, the government advocate sought time to get instructions from the government on the security arrangements to be made while escorting her to be produced before the court.
A division bench of justices M M Sundaresh and M Nirmal Kumar after observing orally that her right to appear in person to argue her case cannot be denied, posted the matter for further hearing to June 18.
When the plea came up, the bench asked what was the problem faced by the government in allowing Nalini to argue in person on her plea.
The government advocate submitted he would like to get instructions in connection with the security arrangements to be made.
Nalini, who has been in prison for over 27 years, wanted the court to direct the superintendent of police, Special Prison for Women in Vellore, to produce her before the court so that she could argue her case for leave as party-in-person.
According to Nalini, a life convict is entitled to one month leave once in two years and since she had never availed such ordinary leave for more than 27 years she made a representation to prison authorities on February 25 seeking six months leave to make arrangement for her daughter's marriage.
Subsequently, Nalini's mother also made a similar representation on March 22. As the authorities failed to consider her representation, she moved the high court. Originally Nalini was sentenced to death.
Subsequently, her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Tamil Nadu government on April 24, 2000.
She claimed that after commutation of her death sentence, around 3,700 life convicts, who had served 10 years of imprisonment and less, were released by the state government.
"My request to the state for premature release under 1994 scheme of premature release of life convicts was cleared by the council of ministers and on September 9, 2018 the council advised the governor to release me and other six life convicts in the case.
"But it has been over six months and the decision of the state still remains unimplemented," she submitted.
The AIADMK government had adopted a resolution recommending to Governor Banwarilal Purohit the release of all seven convicts -- Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Ravichandran, Robert Payas, and Nalini, serving life terms.
Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber during an election rally at Sriperumpudur on May 21, 1991.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami recently said his government was committed to the release of the convicts and expressed hope the governor will act on the cabinet recommendation for setting them free.
His statement came amid renewed calls, both from the opposition and Tamil groups, for the release of the convicts, after the Supreme Court disposed of a plea of the relatives of those killed along with Rajiv Gandhi opposing their release.
The kin had challenged the state government's earlier decision in 2014 to release them.