Rajiv Gandhi murder case convict Robert Payas seeks mercy killing, says 'my life has no meaning'

Payas and six other convicts in the case, whose sentences have been commuted to life, came the closest to hope and jubilation, Jayalalithaa had tried for their release in 2014.

FP Staff June 22, 2017 09:27:56 IST
Rajiv Gandhi murder case convict Robert Payas seeks mercy killing, says 'my life has no meaning'

One of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Robert Payas, a Sri Lankan national has petitioned the Tamil Nadu government seeking mercy killing.

In an emotionally charged letter to Chief Minister K Palaniswami, he said he should be killed on grounds of mercy and his body should be handed over to his family. Payas laments the long years served in jail, adding that without the hope of release the jail sentence has become an endless, hapless journey.

"Payas has petitioned the government through the Puzhal prison authorities," a top prison official told PTI. Blaming the Centre — both the previous UPA government and the incumbent NDA — for opposing the release of seven Rajiv Gandhi case convicts, including him, when former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa took the initiative, he said, "We do not know why our release has been put on hold."

Rajiv Gandhi murder case convict Robert Payas seeks mercy killing says my life has no meaning

File image of Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Reuters

He said Jayalalithaa's decision to release the convicts was reflective of the aspiration of Tamils not only in Tamil Nadu, but across the world, to see them free. He said the Centre has "decided that our lives must end in prison".

"I have come to the conclusion that there is no use living when there is no scope for release," he said, adding that the very long prison sentence has punished not only him, but also his family.

Payas, along with his brother-in-law and another convict in the case Jayakumar, had petitioned for early release in 2012 also on the grounds that he had already served more years in jail than is required in a life sentence, according to The Times of India.  However, the court turned down their petition.

On 11 June this year, he completed 26 years of incarceration and entered the 27th year, he said. A convict sentenced for life in India is usually granted remission, or parole in 14 to 20 years. However, according to a report in The Hinduthat is not an indefeasible right of a prisoner, and by definition, a life convict can be kept in prison till the end of his life.

Perhaps, it was the thought of an undetermined long sentence still stretching ahead of Payas, now 52, that made him seek death. "The thought of seeking euthanasia has now become deeply entrenched, an idea which did not surface in the past," he said.

The convicts in the case are further distressed by the long and tiresome case, against them for a political assassination planned and executed over two decades ago. Gandhi was murdered on 21 May 1991.

"Delay is the operative word in the case of the convicts whenever they sought a constitutionally-sanctioned appellate action," is how a The Hindu report terms it. The article adds, "It took the President more than 11 years to reject their clemency plea in 2011. In 2014, the Supreme Court  commuted their death sentence to life, citing the delay in deciding their clemency pleas." This was followed by the Tamil Nadu government's efforts to set them free, only to be stalled by the Centre later.

The desperation to end this perpetual state of undecidedness is visible in Payas' request. "Also, for the past many years since none of my family members or relatives have visited me I do not think that there is any meaning in my life," He says.

Claiming that Supreme Court Judge Justice Wadhwa had held him to be "not guilty," in 1999, he said still he continued to serve the prison sentence and it greatly anguished him.

Payas and six other convicts in the case, whose sentences have been commuted to life, came the closest to hope and jubilation, Jayalalithaa had tried for their release in 2014. This was one of the rare occasions when Jayalalithaa's arch rival DMK also supported her move; several pro-Tamil outfits had burst crackers celebrating the release of the convicts, says a Rediff.com report quoting PTI. However, the Centre petitioned the Supreme Court against the state's decision and the apex court ruled that the Tamil Nadu government did not have the jurisdiction to order the release of the convicts being investigated by a central agency, according to NDTV.

Payas is a suspected LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) member, who had admitted to being a close associate in the conspiracy hatched to murder Gandhi, according to Hindustan Times

According to the book, The Rajiv Gandhi Assassination: The Investigation By  DR Kaarthikeyan states that Payas' arrest was imminent right from the time the first lose ends of the case were traced by the investigators. He was a close associate of Sivakaran and Murugan, other key conspirators in the case. The book further states, "In September 1990, the LTTE instructed Payas and Jayakumar to go to Chennai in the guise of refugees and and set up bases for LTTE's INT group cadre." Following this, Payas, along with several other family members arrived at Rameswaram on 20 September 1990, a period where a huge number of refugees entered India escaping the bloody conflict in Sri Lanka.

Payas had claimed his child had died due to atrocities perpetrated by the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) sent to Sri Lanka due to which he wanted to seek revenge. Pious, in his confession statement, has admitted to being part of the key planners for the assassination and was convicted for his role in the conspiracy.

With inputs from PTI

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