After 23 years in jail, the assassins of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, including Nalini Sriharan - the lone surviving member of the five-member squad behind the suicide bombing near Chennai in 1991 - are being released by the Tamil Nadu government.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa made the decision after meeting with her cabinet members Wednesday morning, a day after the Supreme Court threw the onus of granting them remission to the state.
Nalini Sriharan, who is also the wife of another convict Murugan, was earlier given death sentence. She was granted mercy in 2000 on the intervention of Rajiv Gandhi's widow and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for the sake of Nalini's daughter, who was born in the prison.
The decision has widely been considered as a move for gaining political credit ahead of the national election, due in May.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had rejected Centre's contention that delay in deciding mercy plea of convicts had not resulted in agony. The apex court had cited the 11-year delay on the part of the centre while deciding their mercy plea.
The government had said that during the 11 years of their imprisonment when their mercy petition was pending with the president, the three asssassins - V Sriharan alias Murugan, AG Perarivlan alias Arivu and T Suthendraraja alias Santhan - suffered no agony, torture or dehumanizing situation.
The Tamil Nadu government will now free three more convicts, Robert Pius, Ravichandran and Jayakumar. The state government will inform the centre of the decision and go ahead with the release if there is no response in three days, according to NDTV.
Rajiv Gandhi's assassins were convicted in 1998 by a TADA court and were given death sentence, which was upheld by the apex court in May 11, 1999.
Gandhi had died in a suicide bombing, after a woman greeted him with a garland and a bomb strapped to her body in a rally in 1991.
Following are some of the immediate reactions on Twitter after the news broke.
AMMA masterstroke by releasing Rajiv Gandhi Killers? Aiming to win 40/40 Election Gimmicks? Worst Politics in TN
— satishkumar (@satishbossn) February 19, 2014
Rajiv Gandhi killers let off as bargain for Rahul to be unharmed IF he becomes PM. Politics over dead husband and father. — Buck_asur (@Buckasur) February 19, 2014
Jayalalithaa govt to free all seven Rajiv Gandhi's killers http://t.co/mj78aQ5hYP Well done Jaya! Which party are they joining?
— गीतिका (@ggiittiikkaa) February 19, 2014
BREAKING : Jayalalitha demands to change the script of Madras Cafe & show Rajiv Gandhi's killer is roaming freely. — 0mar Abdullah (@abdullah_0mar) February 19, 2014
in india,people who killed PM is freed.Wat can u expect frm such politicians wen a commoner is killed/raped. #InsecureIndia [ Rajiv Gandhi ]
— Dhivyabharathi (@dhivyabharathi) February 19, 2014