Political parties in Tamil Nadu today welcomed the Supreme Court verdict commuting the death sentence of three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi killers case, with almost all of them pressing for their release on the grounds that they have spent over 20 years in jail.
In a major relief to the three condemned prisoners -- Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan -- the apex court spared them from gallows by commuting their sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of 11 years delay in deciding their mercy plea by the Centre.
The verdict marked the end of a long wait for the three, lodged in Vellore Central Prison. They were visibly happy when informed of the apex court decision, jail officials said.
The news was welcomed by several parties in the state and the Tamil Nadu assembly had passed a resolution demanding commutation of the death sentence, in an initiative by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa soon after coming to power in 2011.
However, state unit of the Congress indicated that the three had not been exonerated as was being portrayed by a section.
TNCC Chief B S Gnanadesikan said while court judgements should be accepted without any debate, some consideration be shown to the sentiments of families of those killed along with Rajiv Gandhi in the blast on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur near here.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi, DMDK, MDMK, CPI and CPI-M were among those who hailed the apex court verdict.
Karunanidhi, who has been opposing death penalty, said he would be "doubly happy" if the three were released.
"I am immensely happy to know that they have got the right to live, he said.
Considering the court order and the time spent by the three behind bars, "the Centre and the state governments should immediately release them from prison," he demanded.
MDMK chief Vaiko, the most vocal votary of mercy for the three, hailed the "historic judgement," and called for steps for the release of the three.
"Considering the observations made by the Supreme Court removing Section 432 of CrPc, the state Government should consider release of all the three," Vaiko said urging Jayalalithaa to take steps in this regard.