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Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Indian court directs to speed up sending Santhan’s body to SL

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The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu government to obtain the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission’s clearance to take the mortal remains of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case convict Santhan, alias T. Suthenthirarajah, to the island nation.

Justices R. Suresh Kumar and K. Kumaresh Babu ordered that a senior IAS officer and a senior IPS officer should be deputed as nodal officers for obtaining all necessary clearances to fly the body to Sri Lanka.

The orders were passed after Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) AR.L. Sundaresan and State Public Prosecutor (SPP) Hasan Mohamed Jinnah said that a clearance from the Deputy High Commission, death certificate, embalming certificate and Foreigners’ Regional Registration Officer’s (FRRO) permission would be required. “We are further inclined to give a direction to the Government of Tamil Nadu to take all necessary steps to ensure that the aforesaid process is completed as quickly as possible and also to lend their helping hand for the smooth transportation of the body of the petitioner by air,” the Division Bench ordered.

It also called for a compliance report from both the State and the Central government authorities by March 4. The interim orders were passed on a writ petition filed by the convict in 2023 through his counsel M. Radhakrishnan and P. Pugalendhi, seeking permission to fly to his home country.

Then, the convict had told the court that though the Supreme Court had ordered his release from prison, the FRRO had thereafter detained him at a foreigners’ detention camp in Tiruchi for want of necessary travel documents to be issued by the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission.

The FRRO, functioning under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, in turn, told the court that he had written to the Ministry of External Affairs to obtain the travel documents from the Deputy High Commission, but he was yet to receive any response, and therefore, the petitioner could not be set free.

Finally, on February 13, 2024, the State government informed the court that the Deputy High Commission had issued the travel document on February 1, and communicated it to the government on February 2. However, on that day, the ASG sought time till February 29 to get instructions from the FRRO.

When the matter was heard on Thursday (February 29), the ASG informed the court that the FRRO had issued an exit permit on February 22 on the basis of the travel document, but the petitioner died at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai on February 28.

When asked why there had been a delay since February 22 in sending the petitioner to his homeland, the SPP told the court that the convict had developed certain health complications at the camp last month, and was admitted to the Annal Gandhi General Hospital in Tiruchi on January 25. He was later shifted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital on January 27 for further treatment. On February 21, he developed doziness and had dyselectrolytemia. Since his condition deteriorated clinically and neurologically, steps were taken to fly him to Sri Lanka in an air ambulance.

However, at 7 a.m. on Wednesday (February 28), the convict suffered a massive cardiac arrest, and could not be resuscitated despite the best efforts of doctors. He was declared dead at 7:50 a.m., the SPP said, and added that a postmortem and embalming of the body was completed on Thursday. (The Hindu)

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