4 April 2005


From Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: Three assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi will soon press for their release from the Vellore jail as they will be completing 14 years in jail in jail which is the maximum term for anybody sentenced to the life imprisonment in India.

Their release will also be pressed forcefully by DMK, PMK and MDMK, which are the main allies of the UPA government from Tamil Nadu. This, however, may put Congress President Sonia Gandhi in a fix as the assassins to be freed are the hardcore activists of the LTTE, a banned militant outfit in India.

Nalini, Saanthan and Viduthalai Puli are the three assassins who were sentenced for killing Rajiv Gandhi and it was Sonia Gandhi who had campaigned in 2001 to get converted the sentence of hanging on Nalini converted into life imprisonment.

It was then a different reason that Nalini gained sympathy from Sonia Gandhi since she had delivered a baby while in jail. She may, however, not be that keen to press for implementing the life imprisonment provision in letter and spirit and set free all three assassins. How she handles the pressure of the Tamil Nadu allies in this regard is yet to be seen.

Union Minister Arjun Singh is believed to have already sent a note to Sonia Gandhi pointing out that she was large hearted in getting Nalini's death sentence converted into life imprisonment but it was a different ball game to set all assasins free since they continue to have allegience to the banned LTTE and they can again be on the prowl if released from jail. That can endanger even Sonia Gandhi's life, Arjun Singh is reported to have contended.

Sources in the Home Ministry say the Prime Minister's Office has already made inquiries about the fate of Rajiv Gandhi's assassins and it has been told that there are many cases where the prisoners are not automatically released even after completing 14 years of the jail term.

The release of any prisoner undergoing life imprisonment on ground of completing 14 years in prison is done through an executive order and the PMO has been advised that it is not binding on the government to issue such an executive order in the case of the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi. It was, however, up to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to decide either way, a Home Ministry note to PMO is believed to have pointed out.