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Sep 23, 2009 at 10:48am IST

Rajiv Gandhi assassin begins fast for release

Chennai: Rajiv Gandhi's assassin Nalini Sriharan has started what she calls a fast unto death inside the Vellore jail in a bid to seek an early release.

Last week, she had filed a petition in the Madras High Court asking for the Tamil Nadu government to reconvene the advisory board to consider her case for release from the jail - what the Madras High Court ordered in 2009. In her petition, Nalini had said that she was entitled for release in 2005 itself as she had completed 14 years in jail.

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In a 2009 order, the Madras High Court had upheld Nalini's contention that the board - which had refused her an early release - was not constituted according to law.

The High Court order came soon after Priyanka Gandhi met Nalini in Vellore Jail.

Nalini's Lawyer V Elangovan Counsel says, "Her application was not properly considered by the advisory board. She has appealed to the Madras High Court asking for the state to reconvene the advisory board to consider her case. The order was passed in September 2008, but so far, no committee has been constituted either by the state or by the prison authorities."

The order has now been challenged by Janata Party President, Subramaniam Swamy, who argues that till his petition is cleared, the board cannot be reconstituted.

Swamy says, "An advisory board is to see whether she should be released. Now, when she is not entitled to be considered for a second mercy remission, then where is the question of an advisory board?"

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Government says it will continue to oppose Nalini's plea for early release at the Madras High Court.

Nalini's death sentence was commuted to life in the year 2000 after Congress President Sonia Gandhi recommended her case on humanitarian grounds, but she has had no success yet in her campaign for an early release.

It is not just Nalini but one more convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case - Robert Pious - who has gone on a similar indefinite fast and while the Tamil Nadu government says it will look into the matter of reconstitution of the board, it may be waiting for the High Court to deliver a verdict before it can proceed on Nalini's demands.

Her husband and co-convict Murugan is also serving his sentence in the same prison.