Chennai : In the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Tuesday, Chief Minister M K Stalin hit out at the AIADMK for its “sudden love” for Muslim prisoners serving life sentences while the main opposition party had supported with its “eyes closed” Centre’s measures such as the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Led by the Leader of Opposition Edappadi K Palaniswami, the AIADMK staged a walkout over the issue.
Replying to a special call attention motion related to pleas for the premature release of Muslim prisoners, the CM detailed the steps taken by the government with respect to the premature release of life convicts.
Palaniswami urged the release of 36 Muslim prisoners who were in prison for the past about 20 to 25 years considering factors such as old age and illness.
Stalin said a six-member committee, led by retired judge of the Madras High Court, Justice N Authinathan was set up on December 22, 2021, by the government to look into the matter.
The panel was tasked to make recommendations to the government on the premature release of life convicts under certain categories after looking into their cases and in keeping with Supreme Court judgments and relevant laws and rules.
Prisoners who had completed 10 years and 20 years of imprisonment, the elderly, inmates with chronic physical and mental health issues, and those with comorbidities and the differently-abled were among them.
The committee, which submitted its report on October 28, 2022, recommended release of 264 life convicts.
In the first phase, the government, after due consideration, sent files on 49 life convicts, who are eligible for remission, to Governor RN Ravi on August 24, 2023 for his approval and 20 of them are Muslim prisoners. After receiving the Governor’s nod, all the prisoners would be released, Stalin said.
The government would take further action on the release of the remaining convicts, whose release was recommended by the panel. Already, 14 life convicts were prematurely released following the recommendation of the state advisory board and 15 others due to medical reasons and court orders.
Till October 8, this year, 335 life convicts have been prematurely released and of them nine are Muslim prisoners. This was following consideration of the cases of 566 life convicts.
“Some are trying to create an impression that no Muslim prisoners were released and that no action was taken in this regard. The government is taking proper legal action,” he noted.
Referring to Palaniswami batting for the release of Muslim prisoners, Stalin demanded to know the reason for the AIADMK shutting its eyes to the matter while it was in power for 10 years.
The Chief Minister asked why nothing was done during the AIADMK regime (2011-21) on the premature release of Muslim prisoners while it had set free convicts in the Dharmapuri bus burning case.
Further, Stalin said, “we know, and more than that, the brothers and sisters of the minority community know” the reason behind the AIADMK’s “sudden love” for Muslim prisoners which had not taken even a wee bit of action for release of Muslim prisoners but also had supported “with its eyes closed,” the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Population Register initiatives of the Centre.
The Chief Minister said his government is prepared to wholeheartedly accept the views of the legislators on the early release of prisoners. Including Palaniswami, nine legislators spoke supporting premature release of convicts incarcerated for a long time.
Speaking to reporters outside the Assembly, Palaniswami said he urged the release of Muslim prisoners in the House following representations to the AIADMK as well. If the Chief Minister had confined his reply to the request for release of prisoners there would have been no issue.
However, Stalin questioned AIADMK’s concern for Islamic people and he also blamed the previous AIADMK government for not doing anything on the matter.
Palaniswami detailed the welfare measures –for the benefit of Muslims– initiated during his party-led previous regimes including enhanced subsidy for Haj pilgrimage though the Centre had scrapped the assistance.
The DMK regime’s premature release initiative was implemented on the occasion of the birth anniversary celebration (September 15) of former Chief Minister and ruling DMK’s founder C N Annadurai (1909-1969).
The leader of the opposition said Speaker M Appavu did not “permit” him to answer to the Chief Minister’s accusation and hence, to protest against it, his party staged a walkout. ( with PTI inputs)