The Supreme Court had disposed of a plea of the kin of those killed along with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, challenging the State government’s 2014 decision to release seven convicts in the assassination case. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said, ‘Having considered the matter, we are of the view that no live issue remains for adjudication in view of the Constitution bench judgment of this court in Union of India versus V Sriharan alias Murugan and others. In view of the above, the writ petition stands disposed of.’
The ball is now in Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s court. The DMK immediately reacted, asking for speedy release of the seven convicts, who have been in jail for almost 29 years. Arputhammal, mother of Perarivalan, one of the convicts, said she was confident that the Governor will release all the convicts and welcomed the judgment. Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had told reporters in Madurai that the government has already taken all steps for their release, including apprising the Centre about the decision to set them free. However, the Congress chose to take a different stand. TNCC chief K S Alagiri said, ‘There were so many Tamils in prisons for over 25 years and all of them can be released including these seven convicts… we do not have a different opinion. However, there should be no pressure on either the court or the Governor, they must not be forced.’
But what would make the matter difficult is the appeal from the kin of those killed along with Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur on the day. The relative of a victim and a survivor of the 1991 suicide bomber attack said they are confident that Banwarilal Purohit will not release the seven life convicts in the assassination case. They say releasing them would tantamount to supporting terror. The coming days will be crucial. The onus is on the Governor to take an appropriate decision consulting legal experts.