Nalini hopes for early release from prison

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Chennai, May 21: Nalini, serving a life term in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case in the Vellore Central Jail, is pinning her hopes on an early release from prison, even as Congressmen paid floral tributes to the late leader on the 17th anniversary of his death today.

Nalini, the local Tamil, was initially sentenced to death but her death penalty was later commuted to life imprisonment, thanks to the intervention of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The convict has already moved the Madras High court, with a plea for early release. She has filed a petition in the high court to set her at liberty, after her hopes for an early release on account of her good conduct while being in prison were dashed.

The High Court has asked the Tamil Nadu government to reply to her plea and the case is likely to come up for hearing after vacation in next month, when she would get a clear picture on the fate of her case.

Senior counsel S Duraisamy, who represents Nalini, is, however, confident of her release. ''Things have changed now and in all probability, she should be out by September. I do not think the government will oppose her release,'' he told the sources.

Nalini hit the headlines last month when Priyanka Vadra, the daughter of Rajiv Gandhi, called on her in the Vellore Prison on March 19, where she is serving a life term, on a highly secretive mission.

What transpired between the two is yet to come to the fore, but Mr Duraisamy could guess only two things. It could be a goodwill mission by Ms Vadra to convey to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which was allegedly behind the assassination, that it should no more have any hatred towards the Rajiv Gandhi family.

Ms Vadra could have also wanted to know whether someone in the party provided any vital clues that led to the assassination of her father, but Nalini would not know such political links, Mr Duraisamy said.

Whatever be the motive of Ms Vadra's visit, but the post March 19 scenario has helped Nalini seek early release, he said.

Legal circles, however, held the view that Nalini's early release was not possible as she had already availed herself of a benefit by getting her death sentence commuted to life, and hence could not be entitled for another benefit, they said. However, if the government comes forward to set her free, the court could not say no, though her release, in the event, could be questioned and challenged in a court of law, the circles said.

Three other convicts serving a life sentence in the case, have requested the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) for Human Rights here to help them secure their early release from the prison.

The convicts S Jayakumar, Robert Payas (both Sri Lankans) and P Ravichandran, in a letter addressed to SPP V Kannadasan said they were ''Political Prisoners'' and should be set at liberty. Mr Kannadasan said he would forward the letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, TNCC President M Krishnasamy exhorted partymen to distribute welfare assistance to the needy and organise mass feeding, besides paying floral tributes to the late leader.

In the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, 'Anti Terrorism Day' was observed and Union Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs Vayalar Ravi administered an anti-terrorism pledge.

UNI

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