Nalini wants govt. to release her without awaiting Governor’s nod

Rajiv case convict claims Cabinet recommendation binding upon head of State

The Madras High Court is slated to hear on Friday a writ petition by S. Nalini, who was convicted for former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, to declare as unconstitutional the Governor’s “failure” to release her by acting on a recommendation made by the State Cabinet on September 9, 2018, in favour of all seven convicts in the case. She sought a consequential direction to the State government to release her without waiting for the Governor’s nod.

The case has been listed before the first Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu. In an affidavit, Nalini said she was sentenced to death by the trial court on January 28, 1998. The Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty on May 11, 1999. However, it was commuted to life sentence under Article 161 (Governor’s power to suspend, remit or commute sentences) on April 24, 2000.

After such commutation, about 3,800 life convicts, who served either 10 years of imprisonment or less, were released under Article 161 of the Constitution.

Referring to the 2018 Cabinet decision to release all seven convicts in the case, Nalini said the decision was binding upon the Governor, who had “no discretion whatsoever” but to act in accordance with the advice of the Council of Ministers.

She also disclosed that her two writ petitions, one seeking a direction to the government to implement the Cabinet recommendation and the other seeking a direction to the Governor to countersign the recommendation, were dismissed by the High Court on August 20, 2019. Hence, she had now filed a third petition seeking a writ of declaration that the Governor’s “failure” to act in accordance with the recommendation was unconstitutional.

The petitioner heavily relied upon the Supreme Court ruling in Maru Ram versus Union of India decided by a five-judge Bench on November 11, 1980 to contend that the advice of the Council of Ministers was binding on the head of the State.

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