New Delhi: The Congress today seethed at the Supreme Court decision to free Nalini Sriharan and five other convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and said it “disagreed with Sonia Gandhi”, who had pleaded for their release from prison.
The Congress said it would seek legal remedy.
“In this case, the Congress’ views are the same as that of the central government. The party does not agree with Sonia Gandhi’s view, has never agreed with that view, and has made this view clear for years,” said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, responding to NDTV’s question.
“Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was not like any other crime. This is a national issue, not a local murder.”
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, by a woman suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group.
Seven convicts were sentenced to death for their role in the killing.
In 2000, Nalini Sriharan’s sentence was reduced to a life term on the intervention of Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s wife and former Congress president.
In 2008, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the daughter of Rajiv Gandhi, met with her in prison in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore.
The sentence of six more convicts was also commuted in 2014. The same year, then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha initiated moves to free them.
In May, the Supreme Court freed one of the convicts, AG Perarivalan. Nalini approached the court to free her and the others too.
Sonia Gandhi had urged the court to show clemency to Nalini, who was pregnant when she was arrested.
“Sonia Gandhi gave the statement years ago,” Mr Singhvi told NDTV.
“We are consistent about our stand. This is an institutional matter. The sovereignty, integrity and the identity of a nation is involved in the assassination of a former Prime Minister,” said the Congress leader.
“That is why the central government has also never agreed with releasing the convicts. Either the previous government (Congress) or this (BJP).”
Asked whether the party also disagreed with its ally DMK, which rules Tamil Nadu, Mr Singhvi shot back. “They are our allies. We don’t agree with even Sonia Gandhi.”
Mr Singhvi questioned why the Supreme Court would invoke special powers “that it doesn’t have” to free convicted assassins of a former Prime Minister.
“Has the larger issue of sovereignty and integrity of a nation been taken into account? It was an attack on India’s integrity,” he said.
Earlier, another Congress leader, Jairam Ramesh, had said: “The decision of the Supreme Court to free the remaining killers of former PM Rajiv Gandhi is totally unacceptable and completely erroneous. The Congress party criticises it clearly and finds it wholly untenable.”
He added: “It is most unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not acted in consonance with the spirit of India on this issue.”