The release of AG Perarivalan, one of those convicted in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has shone a spotlight on others convicted in the case.
Perarivalan, an Indian citizen who was 19 when Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE suicide bombers on May 21, 1991, was freed by the Supreme Court on May 18.
Six other convicts who facilitated the assassination are serving life sentences in India. They are Murugan alias Sriharan, Nalini Sriharan, T. Suthenthiraraja alias Santhan, Robert Pious, Jayakumar, who is the brother-in-law of Robert Pious, and Ravichandran. Apart from Nalini, all the convicts are from Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, Nalini and Murugan’s daughter was raised in prison for five years and then taken by another prisoner’s family to Coimbatore. She emigrated to the UK where she practices medicine. The two convicts have not met their daughter since her release from prison, Indian Express reported quoting Nalini’s lawyer, Mr Radhakrishnan. However, the family has been in contact by mail.
Here is a timeline of events in the Rajiv Gandhi case and where these convicts are currently located:
May 21, 1991: Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi along with 16 other people were killed by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber (Dhanu/Thenmozhi Rajarathinam) in Sriperumbudur, 50 km from Chennai, at 10:20 p.m. Gandhi was attending a campaign rally in Sriperumbudur when Dhanu set off a belt bomb which killed him. Seven defendants were arrested. Nalini, wife of Murugan, was pregnant when she was arrested. She gave birth to a daughter in prison.
1992: A Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the aegis of the CBI, investigating the case, confirmed the role of the LTTE in the suicide attack. Those arrested were arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA).
1992: SIT named 41 defendants, including 12 dead and three fugitives in the indictment.
1998: 26 defendants including Murugan, Santhan, AG Perarivalan and Nalini were sentenced to death by the TADA court in Poonamallee, on the outskirts of Chennai.
1999: The Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the four and upheld the death sentence. The High Court sentenced three other people to life and acquitted 19 defendants in the case. He also invalidated the provisions of TADA in the case of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan petitioned the Governor of Tamil Nadu for clemency, but the plea was denied.
2000: The Cabinet of Tamil Nadu, under the leadership of Mr. Karunanidhi, recommended to the governor to commute Nalini’s death sentence. Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Governor of Tamil Nadu based on an appeal by Congress President and widow of Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi.
2001: Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan appealed to the President of India for mercy.
2011: Their appeal for pardon was rejected by President Pratibha Patil. In the same year, the Madras High Court stayed the execution of the three death row inmates who were to be hanged on September 9. Then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha passed a resolution to commute the death sentence.
2014 : The Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan to life imprisonment.
2018: The Tamil Nadu Cabinet has recommended the release of the seven convicts in the case.
2019: Nalini Sriharan was granted ordinary parole for the first time since his arrest in 1991. The parole lasted for one month and 20 days.
2021: Nalini Sriharan was granted another parole by the Tamil Nadu government at the request of her sick mother. Ravichandran was also granted parole by the Madras High Court in the same year for 15 days on a petition filed by his mother.
2022: Perarivalan, to be released, the Supreme Court ruled on May 18.
Until COVID-19 restrictions were enforced, Nalini and Murugan were allowed to meet once every two weeks for about 15 minutes.
According to the report, Santhan conducts rituals at a temple inside Vellore Central Jail. Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran continue to serve their sentences in prison.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)