Madras High Court today declined to entertain a plea by Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict Nalini Sriharan seeking pre-mature release, saying it cannot grant her request in view of pendency of a related matter before the Supreme Court.
Justice M Sathyanarayana made it clear that the prayer of Nalini, a life convict, seeking a direction to the Tamil Nadu government to consider her plea for premature release under Article 161 of the Constitution cannot be granted until and otherwise the litigation before apex court reached finality.
The Judge also said the court cannot issue a direction to the state Governor to perform his constitutional function in a particular manner.
“In the light of the fact that the investigation (in the case) was conducted by CBI coupled with the July 9, 2014 order of the Supreme Court, this court for the present cannot direct the state government to consider the representation of the petitioner. In the considered opinion of the court, unless and until the writ petition which is pending before the Supreme Court reaches finality, the prayer sought for by the petitioner cannot be granted,” he said in the order.
The Judge disposed of the petition giving liberty to the state Home Secretary to consider the representation of the petitioner in accordance with law, subject to the outcome of the apex court judgement on the pending litigation.
Seeking premature release under Article 161 of the Constitution, which empowers the Governor of a State to grant pardon or remission of punishment, Nalini had submitted that she had spent 25 years in jail though the legal requirement was only 20 years to be eligible for early release.
In its counter, the state government had informed the court that it was yet to take a decision on Nalini’s premature release since her case with other co-convicts was pending before the Supreme Court.
In July 2014, the apex court had restrained the state government from offering remission to the seven life convicts on a petition by the Centre.
Later on December 2 last, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that the Centre has “primacy” over states’ right to grant remission in certain cases such as those investigated by CBI and involving death penalty and referred the issue of clemency to a three-judge bench.
The Supreme Court had awarded death penalty to four of the 26 persons, including Nalini and her husband Murugan, found guilty in the case related to the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi by an LTTE suicide bomber on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur near here during an election rally.
It had also sentenced three others to life imprisonment.
Nalini’s sentence was commuted to life after the state Government invoked Article 161 in April 2000.
The death penalty of the three others, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan was commuted to life by the apex court on February 18, 2014 on the ground of inordinate delay in disposing of their mercy petitions by the President.
Subsequently, the state government decided to release all the seven convicts and sent its decision to the Centre under Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Centre had then moved the Supreme Court to quash the the state government’s proposal.