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Rajiv killers to be freed from jail in 3 days

Chennai, Feb 19 (PTI): The Tamil Nadu government decided on Wednesday to free within three days all the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, a day after the Supreme Court commuted the death penalty awarded to three of them.

The convicts have been in jail for 23 years now.

Apart from Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan --- the three spared the gallows by the Supreme Court over the Union government’s delay in deciding their mercy petitions --- Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran would also be freed.

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who took the decision for early release of the Rajiv killers at an emergency Cabinet meeting convened on Wednesday morning over the issue, made a suo motu announcement in the state assembly.

The Opposition parties, barring Congress, welcomed the announcment.

Jayalalithaa said that, in compliance with the Section 435 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the state would send the cabinet decision to the Union government for its clearance since the Central Bureau of Investigation had filed the case against the convicts.

“If there is no reply within three days from the Centre, the state government will release all the seven under CrPc section 432 in accordance with the powers vested with it,” she declared.

While members from the opposition parties thanked the Chief Minister for her gesture in deciding to release all the convicts, Congress's J D Prince stood up and made certain remarks that Speaker V Dhanpal expunged.

John Jacob and N R Rangarajan (both Cong) were heard saying some thing, but the Chair refused them permission to speak, stating that any statement made under Rule 110 of the House did not entail members to seek clarifications.

The three Congress members later walked out of the House.

Majority of political parties in the state had demanded immediate release of convicts in the backdrop of Supreme Court observation that the state can consider their release.

Jayalalithaa told the Assembly that she held a discussion with legal experts on the issue Tuesday, soon after the Supreme Court decision.

“Considering that they have spent over 23 years in prison, the Cabinet decided to immediately release Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan under the powers vested with the state government under Section 432 of CrPC. Likewise, it was also decided to release life convicts Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, who too have spent 23 years in prison,” Jayalalithaa said.