Court issues notices on Nalini’s demand for freedom(Second Lead)

April 30th, 2008 - 9:11 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Chennai, April 30 (IANS) The Madras High Court Wednesday issued notices to the central and Tamil Nadu governments on a petition from Nalini Sriharan, serving a life term for her role in former premier Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, seeking her release from jail. Justice K. Jyothimani issued the notices to the two governments’ home ministries besides Tamil Nadu’s additional director general of police (prisons). The notices are returnable by June 10, Nalini’s lawyer S. Doraiswamy told IANS.

“Nalini has sought her release in her own right on technical grounds citing that procedural rules were not followed and that the provisions of the Prison Act and Tamil Nadu prison rules were violated in her case,” Doraiswamy said.

According to Doraiswamy, Nalini’s request for release was turned down Oct 31, 2007 by the Tamil Nadu government following the recommendations of an “improperly constituted advisory board” Dec 28, 2006.

Meanwhile, a probation officer’s recommendations for Nalini’s release June 1, 2007 were improperly rejected by the Tamil Nadu government, Doraiswamy argued.

Doraiswamy dismissed reports linking the development to the publicity generated after Nalini and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, met at the Vellore central prison March 19.

“Press reports notwithstanding, it is imperative that one takes note of the fact that Nalini has spent 16 years and nine months in prison - far beyond the 14-year maximum limit of a normal life sentence. Further, she has challenged the very constitution of the advisory board that overlooked recommendations from a probation officer to release her on grounds of exemplary conduct and successful pursuance of higher education in prison,” Doraiswamy said.

The Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of Nalini, her husband Murugan alias Sriharan and Perarivalan in the assassination case on May 11 1998.

Nalini - the first accused in the case - was found guilty of being part of the conspiracy to kill Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 at an election rally near Chennai.

She was accused of providing logistic support to the woman suicide bomber at the behest of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

This included allowing her residence to be used as a hideout, hiding wireless sets, procuring a north Indian attire for the suicide bomber Dhanu to hide her belt bomb, and of performing the role of interpreter to help assassins avoid detection.

The LTTE denied any role in the killing.

Nalini was granted clemency following the intervention of the state and central governments in April 2000.

This was facilitated by the recommendation of Sonia Gandhi to commute her death sentence into life imprisonment on compassionate grounds. Nalini has a daughter, who is studying abroad.

Other co-conspirators in the assassination include Murugan and Perarivalan, who are serving death sentence at the Vellore prison since 1998.

A senior advocate, V. Selvaraj, had a different opinion on what constituted life imprisonment.

“A condemned prisoner whose death sentence has been commuted technically has to be in prison for the rest of her life, notwithstanding her good conduct and educational qualifications acquired during incarceration or compassionate grounds,” he said.

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