In her petition, Nalini challenged Section 435(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which mandates the state government to consult the Centre before pre-mature release of a convict if the case was investigated by the CBI.

Nalini has been in jail for the last 23 years. She was sentenced to death penalty by the trial court in the case on January 28, 1998. Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life term by the Tamil Nadu Governor on April 24, 2000.

"Though 2,200 life convicts who had put in less than 10 years of imprisonment were prematurely released by the Tamil Nadu Government during the last about 15 years, she was excluded from consideration for premature release only on the ground that her offence was investigated by the CBI i.e. her case was covered by Section 435(1)(a) CrPC. The said section is unconstitutional," the petition said.

A day after the Apex Court had commuted the death sentences of convicts Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, Jayalalithaa-led government had on February 19 proposed to remit the sentences of all seven lifers, including the three, and release them.

The decision of the state government to release the convicts was challenged by the Centre before the Supreme Court, which had stayed the decision and referred the matter to a Constitution bench.

 The three-judge bench had said that the Constitution Bench will decide whether the sentence of a prisoner, whose death penalty has been commuted to life, can be remitted by the government.

The court had on February 20 stayed the decision to release three convicts Murugan, Santhan and Arivu whose death sentence was commuted to life term by it on February 18 in the case, saying there had been procedural lapses on part of the state government on the decision to release them.

The Apex Court had later also stayed the release of convicts Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran in the case.

Santhan, Murugan and Arivu are currently lodged in Vellore’s Central Prison. They are in jail since 1991.

The other four are also undergoing life sentence for their role in Gandhi's assassination on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur.

(Agencies)

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