Congress To File Review Plea On Release Of Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Convicts: Report

Five persons convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case were released this month following a Supreme Court order.

Rajiv Gandhi

The Congress party will file a review petition in the Supreme Court challenging the release of convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, as per a report.

The PTI on Monday cited sources to report that the petition will be filed in the Supreme Court this week.

The Narendra Modi-led Union government has already filed a review petition on the subject in the Supreme Court.

Five persons convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were released on November 12. 

Who are Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts?

Five convicts released at the Supreme Court's order on November 12 are: Nalini Sriharan, her husband V Sriharan alias Murugan, Santhan, Robert Payas, and Jayakumar. The sixth convict named AG Perarivalan was released in May.

Nalini had been on parole for a month prior to her release. 

Murugan, Santhan, Robert, and Jayakumar are Sri Lankan nationals. 

The Supreme Court on November 11 ordered the release of five convicts serving life terms in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, noting that its earlier order releasing another convict Perarivalan was equally applicable to them.

Rajiv was assassinated on May 21, 1991, by the Sri Lanka-based terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during an election rally. He was the second Indian prime minister to be assassinated after his mother Indira Gandhi, who was killed by her bodyguards. 

Why did LTTE kill Rajiv Gandhi?

The LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran decided to kill Rajiv after he intervened in Sri Lankan civil war. 

LTTE chief Prabhakaran made the decision in November 1990 and set the operation in motion, according to an India Today story from 1991.

Anirudhya Mitra, the author of the book Ninety Days: The True Story of the Hunt for Rajiv Gandhi's Assassins, wrote, "Even before the National Front government [of VP Singh] finally collapsed, the LTTE had made up its mind to prevent Rajiv Gandhi from regaining power even if it required the ultimate deterrent — his assassination.

"Realising that Rajiv as prime minister would be a near-impossible target, it was decided that they should strike while his security status was still that of an Opposition leader and election campaigning would render him even more vulnerable."

Assassination and conviction of accused

There were eight "core" members in the LTTE squad that assassinated Rajiv. Together with bomber Dhanu, this group comprised Shivarasan, Murugan, Arivu, Shubha, and the three local "innocents" Bhagyanathan, Nalini and Padma, as per Minhaz Merchant's biography of Gandhi titled Rajiv Gandhi, End of a Dream

The five squad members at the site of the assassination were Dhanu, Shivarasan, Nalini, Shubha, and Haribabu. While Haribabu, a photographer who was clicking a photo at the time of the blast, died at the scene with Dhanu, the other three fled the spot.

From this group, only Nalini was caught alive. The rest died by suicide. 

In 1998, a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court in Chennai convicted 26 persons and sentenced them to death.

In 1999, however, the Supreme Court acquitted 19 of the 26 persons convicted in 1998, commuted the death sentences to life imprisonments of three — Jai Kumar, Robert Pias, and Ravi Chandran, and upheld the death sentences of only four — Nalini, her husband Murugan, Santhan, and AG Perarivalan, according to a UNI report from 1999.  

In 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the three death sentences life imprisonment. 

Controversies in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case

Controversies have surrounded convictions in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. It emerged in 2013 that the confession that led to Perarivalan's conviction was false. 

Former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) SP V Thiagarajan, who recorded the confession, told The Times of India that Perarivalan never said that he knew the battery he bought would be used to make the bomb that would kill Rajiv. Thiagarajan admitted to altering Perarivalan's statement.

He said, "But he [Perarivalan] said he did not know the battery he bought would be used to make the bomb. As an investigator, it put me in a dilemma. It wouldn’t have qualified as a confession statement without his admission of being part of the conspiracy. There I omitted a part of his statement and added my interpretation. I regret it."

(With PTI inputs)