The government of India’s Tamil Nadu state on Wednesday said it had decided to release seven convicted for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi assassination, including the three prisoners whose death sentence was recently reduced to life imprisonment by the Indian Supreme Court.
The Hindu’s website reported that apart from the three men who were on death row until 24 hours earlier, benefit will also go to four others serving life terms since their 1991 arrest.
The Tamil Nadu cabinet’s decision was made public in a statement in the state assembly by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
In the statement, Jayalalithaa noted that when commuting the sentence of the three prisoners on death row, the Supreme Court had suggested that Tamil Nadu could exercise its powers under Sections 432 and 433A of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The two sections deal with the power to remit sentences and with the release of prisoners sentenced to death or life.
Jayalalithaa said Tamil Nadu had decided to invoke Section 432, given the fact that the seven had already spent 23 years in jail.
Jayalalithaa added that since the case was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation, it was imperative that the state government consult with the centre.
“The state government will send the cabinet’s decision to the centre. If the centre fails to respond in three days, my government will release them immediately under the power conferred on it by the Constitution,” The Hindu quoted Chief Minister Jayalalithaa as saying.
Moreover, Attorney Yug Chaudhry also said the state has decided to free seven prisoners serving life sentences for the 1991 assassination.
Chaudhry said the state government still needs approval from the federal government before the men can walk free.
The seven convicts were among 26 convicted of playing minor roles in the assassination plot.
Rajiv Gandhi was killed along with 17 others, including the suicide assassin, while campaigning in May 1991 for a return to the post of prime minister.
The attack was orchestrated by Tamil Tiger rebels in neighbouring Sri Lanka.
While the convicts have been reviled across much of India, many ethnic Tamils in the south believe they were duped into taking part in a plot they knew little about.