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Rajiv’s assassin, Nalini may be freed
CHENNAI, JAN 21 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 22 Jan. 2010 12:36 AM IST
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Providing a glimmer of hope to Nalini Sriharan, who has been in prison for about 19 years now in connection with the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, an advisory board constituted by the Tamil Nadu government is understood to have agreed to recommend her “premature release” from jail. On Wednesday, Nalini appeared before the board headed by the Vellore district collector, and deposed for about 10 minutes. Reliable sources said a favourable report by the probation officer and the fact that she had already spent nearly 19 years in prison weighed heavily on the minds of the board members. That she has a girl child and her husband too is in jail awaiting execution, was also considered by the board comprising the collector, district judge, probation officer, and the superintendent of the Vellore prison for women. The board is expected to forward its recommendation to the state government on Thursday. As the report is recommendatory in nature, the government can either accept or reject the suggestions. However, this is the first time the advisory board has resolved to recommend her premature release. The state is now expected to take a decision on the case after consultations with the Centre since it involved an investigation by a central agency, the CBI. During the hearing of Nalini’s first plea seeking an early release, the Centre had told the Madras High Court that it had no role in the matter as the state was yet to seek its opinion on the case. During the hearing of Rajiv assassination conspirator Nalini’s first plea seeking an early release, the Centre had told the Madras HC that it had no role in the matter as the state was yet to seek its opinion on the case. Arrested on June 14, 1991, she was sentenced to death, along with 25 others, by a special court here on January 28, 1998. However, the SC confirmed death only on four of the convicts, including Nalini, on May 11, 1999. Her death sentence was commuted to life by the TN governor based on Nalini’s clemency plea, Sonia Gandhi’s public statements and advice from the state cabinet, in April 2000. Nalini’s request for a premature release after nearly 17 years in jail was rejected the first time by an advisory board on October 31, 2007. Subsequently, she was back in the spotlight after Priyanka Gandhi met her on March 19, 2008 at the Special Prison for Women at Vellore. The secret meeting was first reported by The Times of India on April 15, 2008. Nalini challenged the board’s decision before the Madras HC, questioning the composition of the board and pointing out certain procedural flaws. The HC then asked the government to constitute a new advisory board and consider her release plea afresh, strictly in accordance with law. The court had not specified any time-frame. More than a year later, on Wednesday, four members of the board including the district collector, who is the chairman, met at Vellore and considered all available material for about an hour. Significantly, the probation officer’s report too is said to have favoured her premature release. The probation officer’s report is vital, as he is the official who makes spot visits and compiles a report after considering relevant factors such as the societal impact of the release of the prisoner, his/her conduct inside the prison, antecedents, and his/her acceptability in society, besides rehabilatory measures. The absence of the chief judicial magistrate and a non-official member nominated by the government at the meeting did not have any bearings on the deliberations as it had the required quorum. Congress reacts Reacting first time to reports of possible release of Nalini Hariharan, one of the convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Congress high command Thursday termed it as a sensitive legal matter. The party’s cautious line on the issue was spelt out by spokesperson Manish Tewari. The Congress spokesperson refused to further comment on the issue, saying it would be inappropriate to react until the party gets to hear any official version. The decision to release Nalini or not, is lying pending with the state government. Tewari, however, defended the state unit of the party in Tamil Nadu, which has been opposing the release of Nalini, and said that they are well within their rights to voice their opinion on the issue. Nalini’s release was opposed by Congress’ Tamil Nadu state unit. Senior party leader and former union minister EVKS Elangovan said, “Any leniency with someone who has been related to a terror organisation in the past would send out a wrong message. Government should think twice before releasing Nalini.” Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, who is also against Nalini’s release, said the matter cannot be easily disposed of by just an advisory board. “There are many more stages to go through and I will fight each and every stage in the memory of Rajiv Gandhi”. “I am one of the parties in the case. I had gone to court last time and the state government was then forced to take a stand against her release,” he added. As per media reports, the decision over Nalini’s release could be taken soon as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi is reported to be willing to release Nalini if only Congress chief and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi gives a go ahead. Karunanidhi had earlier, reiterated that he is not against releasing Nalini if the Gandhi family forgives her. Rajiv’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi had met Nalini in her prison and later admitted to have forgiven her while his son Rahul Gandhi had said that he cannot forgive his father’s killers. A convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Nalini, has been languishing in jail for last 19 years with state advisory board recommending her release to state government there was finally a ray of hope for her. Earlier in the week, Nalini’s plea for an early release was heard by the board set up by the state government. The board was headed by Vellore district collector C Rajendran and comprised of District Superintendent of Police, Shekhar, District Judge Kalaiarasan, Regional Probational Officer of Prisons, Krishnamma Namagiri and Lecturer from Academy of Prisons and Correctional Activities, Julie as other board members. of Vellore prison of women. The meeting between Nalini and the government advisory board lasted for three hours and went on till late in the night.

 
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