July 06 2020
Dharmapuri bus burning case: TN Governor returns file on convicts’ early release
27 October 2018

State to resend file saying there was neither motive nor conspiracy in the killings

Governor Banwarilal Purohit has sent back for “reconsideration” the State government’s proposal recommending premature release of three life convicts in the sensational Dharmapuri bus burning case, sources in the Secretariat said on Friday.

On its part, the State government is expected to resend the file to Raj Bhavan citing the absence of a motive or conspiracy in the incident that resulted in the deaths of three college girls. It will argue that the convicts can be released under the provisions of Article 161 of the Constitution, the sources added.

The case relates to the death of Kokilavani, Gayathri and Hemalatha, all students of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, when the bus they were travelling in along with 44 other students and two teachers was torched by the three convicts on February 2, 2000, after the conviction of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in a criminal case. Nedunchezhian, Ravindran and Muniappan were initially awarded the death penalty.

Convicts Nedunchezhian, Ravindran and Muniappan got relief in March 2016 when the Supreme Court commuted their punishment to life imprisonment, saying that the incident was not pre-meditated.

The State Government had recommended the premature release of about 1,800 life convicts lodged in central prisons across Tamil Nadu on the occasion of the birth centenary of former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran. The eligibility norm was that the convicts should have completed 10 years of imprisonment (five years in the case of those aged 60 years and above) as on February 25, 2018.

The State’s recommendation for premature release of convicts requires the sanction of the Governor under Article 161 of the Constitution, which states that “the Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.”


While the Prisons Department expected Raj Bhavan to approve the proposal for premature release at one go, the Governor sought to review the matter on a case-by-case basis. “The premature release of more than 500 life convicts has already been cleared by the Governor. This is the first to be returned to the government for reconsideration. We will be resending the file since the convicts had no motive to kill the college girls...it was an act of sudden provocation guided by a frenzy mob of violent protesters,” a senior State government official said.

Parrying questions on the options before Raj Bhavan when the State resends a file returned for reconsideration, the official said that the Governor had every right to obtain legal opinion and act in accordance with constitutional provisions.

The decision of the Governor in the bus burning case could have a bearing on the State Cabinet’s decision to release all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the official said.



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