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Rajiv Gandhi murder convict moves SC for release

October 17, 2008 18:49 IST

The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government on Friday on a petition filed by V Ravichandran, a convict serving life sentence in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, seeking his premature release on the ground that he has already undergone a jail term of 14 years.

A bench of Chief Justices K G Balakrishnan and P Sathasivam issued the notice after counsel for Ravichandran submitted that the convict's plea be considered by the advisory board along with three others Nalini, S Jeyakumar and Robert Payas whose application is already pending with the state government.

On September 25, the Madras High Court had directed the advisory board to consider afresh the applications of Nalini, Jeyakumar and Payas for an early release.

The high court had held that the advisory board earlier constituted by the state to consider the case of the three convicts was not constituted as per rules. The earlier advisory board had rejected the plea of the three convicts upon which they had filed petitions in the high court.

Though Ravichandran did not move the advisory board, he has directly approached the Supreme Court for a direction to the advisory board through the government for considering his plea along with the other three.

The high court had quashed the board proceedings and the government orders constituting the board and directed it to consider the case of the petitioners after constituting an advisory board in accordance with the rules.

Nalini and the other two petitioners had complained that the constitution of the board was defective as it did not have seven members as provided in the prison rules and did not

consider relevant material while rejecting their pleas.

Agreeing with their plea, the court said since what was being considered by the board was the most vital fundamental right, namely right to life, the procedure provided under the prison rules should be strictly adhered to.

The Advocate-Generals contention that there was substantial compliance of the rules could not be countenanced, as factually there had been no such substantial compliance,

the judge had held.

The apex court on May 12, 1999 had commuted Ravichandran's death sentence awarded by the Designated TADA court in Chennai to life imprisonment.

Out of the 26 accused who stood the trial, the apex court had acquitted 19 of them in the case while awarding death sentence to four and life imprisonment to three.

The death sentence was awarded to Nalini, her husband Murgan, Santhan and Arivu for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.

Nalini's death sentence was later commuted into life imprisonment.

Besides Ravichandran, the apex court had commuted the capital punishment into life imprisonment of Jai Kumar and Robert Payas.

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