Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit approved the premature release of three All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam men convicted in the killing of three woman students in 2000 after being satisfied that they will be 'absorbed' by the society without any disturbance, the Raj Bhavan said on Tuesday.
The decision was also taken based on grounds that the Supreme Court had observed that the deaths took place in a state of mob frenzy and considering that the convicts had been in prison for 13 years, it said in a release in Chennai.
Orders were issued approving the premature release after 'being satisfied that the three life convicts will be absorbed by the local society without any disturbance...' and based on the apex court's observation,' it said.
The governor initially returned the files related to the three convicts for reconsideration, but the state government on October 25 last sent back them sticking to its recommendation that they be released.
Purohit eventually cleared them only after obtaining legal opinion from the state Advocate General.
The three men --A Nedunchezhian, G Ravindran and C Muniappan -- were released on Monday from the Vellore Central Prison in commemoration of the birth centenary celebrations of late Chief Minister and ruling AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran, known as MGR.
They were serving life sentence for setting ablaze a bus in Dharmapuri that killed three students of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in 2000 while protesting conviction of former chief minister Jayalalithaa in a corruption case.
The Raj Bhavan statement came in the wake of criticism of the state government by DMK and other parties over not securing the pre-mature release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, a recommendation which is pending with Purohit.
It said the state government had in February issued a Government Order for a scheme to release prisoners undergoing life imprisonment on the occasion of MGR birth centenary.
The release explained the process involving approvals by a committee of secretaries, the Law Minister and finally the Chief Minister before the files of individual convicts are forwarded to the Governor for orders under Article 161 of the Constitution, which deals with his powers to grant pardons.
A total of 1,627 life convicts have been so far ordered release by following this procedure, it said.
The Raj Bhavan said Advocate General Vijay Narayan, Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and Home Secretary Niranjan Mardi had met the Governor on October 31 'and said the three life convicts had no intention to kill and that they set fire to the bus in a state of mob frenzy'.
Narayan in his opinion 'recorded' the Supreme Court order of March 2016, in which it commuted the death sentence, that it had noticed that the acts leading to the death of the three students were committed in the course of a mob frenzy.
He recalled the court's observation that the intent of the mob, including the three, was to cause damage to public property to protest the conviction of Jayalalithaa and the victims were 'unknown persons' against whom they had no premeditation or planning to kill.
A Sessions Court in Salem had convicted the three men to death in 2007 and the Madras high court later confirmed it.
The release said the AG stated that the cases of the three life convicts fell within the guidelines laid down by the government for release of prisoners on the occasion of the MGR centenary celebrations.