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Panel meets Nalini to decide on her release plea

Source: PTI
January 21, 2010 12:20 IST

The advisory board formed to consider the plea of Nalini, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, will submit its report to the Tamil Nadu government in a few days.

The government constituted board, headed by District Collector C Rajendran, had met for over three hours on Wednesday and heard Nalini on her plea at the Vellore women's prison, where she is lodged. The meeting went on till late in the night. Rajendran told reporters on Thursday morning that the board members have to prepare the report.

However, it was for the state government to decide on its recommendations. "We will be sending our report in a few days," he said.

"According to the jail memorandum, there are some criteria for consideration of early release of prisoners. According to that, we have discussed (the issue)," he said. The board also heard the pleas of two other convicts in the case, Jayakumar and Robert Payas, who are also seeking premature release.

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 are the other board members. Nalini presented her case for over ten minutes before the board, which was set up following a direction from the Madras high court on September 24, 2008, while partly allowing a petition by her, to consider her request.

Her earlier request for premature release was rejected by the authorities concerned in October 2007. Asked about the possibility of Nalini being freed, her counsel S Doraiswamy said, "No, there is no such news. Yesterday, the committee met. They will be forwarding their recommendation only in the course of the day".

"It will take two or three days to formulate the report and send it to the government. And the government will consider thereafter. It will take quite a long time, it is not easy," Doraiswamy said.

He said the board has not made any recommendations so far. "They have to prepare a report for 11 persons and they have to forward it. It will take two-three days for them".

"Prison officers have already made a report that she may be given a premature release. On the basis of the report on premature release, an order has to be passed," he said.

Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy, who is 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," he said.

"I am one of the parties that has to be heard before orders are passed. I had gone to court last time and the state government was then forced to take a stand against her release," he added.

Nalini, arrested on June 14, 1991, was sentenced to death by a special court along with 25 others in January 1998. But in May 1999, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence of only four suspects, including Nalini. The state government, by an April 24, 2000 order, had commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment after the then governor allowed her clemency petition.

On September 11, 2008, Nalini, who has served over 18 years in Vellore prison, had filed a petition in the Madras high court, seeking her premature release. She had contended that she was required to serve 14 years of imprisonment to be entitled for premature release, which she completed on June 18, 2005.

In her petition in the high court, she had sought a direction to the government to constitute an advisory board in accordance with law, to take a decision on her premature release in the light of the court orders.

Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber in Sriperumubudur on May 21, 1991.

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