Jubilation gave way to despair at Vellore Jail after the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the release of convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
The jubilation that marked the announcement of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa -- that her cabinet had decided to release the seven within three days -- turned into disappointment within 24 hours following the apex court’s order.
Sources in Vellore jail said a pall of gloom descended on the prison where the four convicts -- Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini, are lodged -- as the Supreme Court's order shattered their dreams of walking free in a couple of days after 23 years of incarceration.
Making a statement in the assembly on Wednesday, the chief minister had announced that her cabinet had decided to release all the seven convicts within three days, irrespective of the Centre's response to the government decision.
Meanwhile, dejection was writ large on the face of a relative of Perarivalan, who vented her anger against the Congress, accusing it of creating a ruckus on the issue.
His aunt Nila Pappiah expressed confidence that the Tamil Nadu government would fight the court case on their behalf and expressed optimism that her nephew would be released.
She reiterated Perarivalan's mother's claim -- that he was innocent and not connected with the killing of Rajiv Gandhi -- who was assassinated by a Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam suicide bomber at Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991.
The Supreme Court had stayed the release of the three convicts in the assassination case by the Tamil Nadu government, saying there have been procedural lapses on the part of the state.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam directed the state government to maintain status quo regarding three prisoners whose death sentence was commuted to life term by it and said the Centre can file a fresh petition regarding the other four prisoners whose sentence has also been remitted.