The President of India has now rejected the Tamil Nadu government’s request to release the seven prisoners.
The seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case have spent more than a quarter century in prison but it is unlikely that they will ever walk free. While the main perpetrators of the assassination of the former Prime Minister of India perished in the suicide belt bombing of Rajiv Gandhi when he was on a visit to Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu in May 1991, the seven others have been serving life terms after their sentences were commuted to life from death four years ago. The mother of one of them, Perarivalan, has been pleading for mercy killing of her son who has been in prison for 27 years now. He is accused of procuring a nine-volt battery for the trigger and may or may not have had knowledge of the purpose to which the battery would be used.
The President of India has now rejected the Tamil Nadu government’s request to release the seven prisoners, as the Centre does not wish to show any mercy to the perpetrators and conspirators of the killing of a Prime Minister of the country. The issue has raised the ire of political parties wedded to Tamil nationalism, which have been invariably asking that the state invoke Article 161 to free the convicts. The Gandhi family has also forgiven the convicts for their role in the assassination masterminded and carried out by the LTTE of Sri Lanka. While Tamil Nadu is willing to show mercy, the Centre, regardless of the party or alliance in power, has been determined to make an extreme example of those willing to kill a leader. There is also a need to look for a final judicial order from a Constitution bench in the matter as four of the seven prisoners are Sri Lankan Tamils. The point to ponder is whether there is any space at all for humanitarian consideration even in such an extreme case.