Three All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) men, serving life term for torching a bus in Dharmapuri in 2000 resulting in the deaths of three women, were released from Vellore Central Prison on Monday.
Nedunchezhian, Ravindran and Muniappan walked out of prison around noon after prison authorities received a fax from the Additional Director General of Police (Prisons) directing their release. The Supreme Court in March 2016 commuted their punishment to life imprisonment, saying that the incident was not pre-meditated, according to reports.
The three had resorted to violence after a Special Court in Chennai sentenced former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to one-year imprisonment in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay Hotel case on February 2, 2000. They torched a bus with 44 students and two teachers of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. Three students - Kokilavani, Gayathri and Hemalatha - were trapped inside the bus and were charred to death.
Chief Minister Edapadi Palaniswami-led government had recommended the release of the three convicts to Governor Banwarilal Purohit, who had asked the state government to review its decision.
However, the state government stuck to its stand reiterating the release of the prisoners following which the Governor accepted the recommendation to release them.
The convicts were originally awarded the death penalty by the trial court which was later upheld by the Supreme Court, but on a review petition their sentence was commuted to life imprisonment two years ago.
The AIADMK government recommended the premature release of over 1,500 life convicts including the three lodged in the Vellore prison on the occasion of late chief minister MG Ramachandran's birth centenary celebrations.
The release contemplated was for those who had served up to 10 years of imprisonment on "humanitarian grounds within the framwork of law and prison rules," the chief minister said.
Guidelines were subsequently framed by the government for considering the cases of life convicts for their premature release under Article 161 of the Constitution.
Separate government orders were issued for prematurely releasing the trio. The orders said each of them had completed 10 years of actual imprisonment as on February 25, 2018.