Restore 'A' class facility to Nalini, says HC



Chennai: The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu government to restore 'A' class facilities to Nalini, life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, with immediate effect.

"She shall be provided 'A' class facilities as ordered by a designated court earlier with immediate effect," a division bench comprising justices K Mohan Ram and G M Akbar Ali said and set aside a May 28, 2010 order of the SP of Special Prison for Women at Vellore, reducing the prison facility given to Nalini from 'A' class to 'B'.

Nalini enjoyed 'A' class facility from January 1992 till the verdict in the assassination case was pronounced on January 28, 1998 when it was withdrawn. It was restored in September 2009 by a TADA judge and was again withdrawn from May 28, 2010.

The SP of the Prison said that during a surprise check in the high security jail on April 20, 2010, a mobile phone was recovered from Nalini's cell. As she had committed an offence under the prison rules she was given 'B' class facilities instead of 'A' under rule 302 (b)(7) of Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, he said.

Her counsel argued that no inquiry had been held before awarding the punishment. There should have been an inquiry under rule 304 of the prison rules. Besides she was also not given an opportunity to defend herself.

In their order on Nalini's petition, the judges noted the respondent (SP) in a counter affidavit, had not stated he had conducted an inquiry under Rule 302 before awarding punishment. "There is not even a whisper about affording an opportunity to the petitioner," the Bench said.

The judges said it was only on their direction that the respondent had produced the file containing only 'stereotype statements' of prison officials. An extract would show proper probe had not been conducted in Nalini's presence and she was not given an opportunity of a fair hearing, the bench said.

"Therefore, the punishment imposed by the respondent is not sustainable and liable to be set aside," the judges said and directed restoration of 'A' class facilities to her.

The Supreme Court had confirmed the death sentences to Nalini and three others. Her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

PTI