(FILE) In this photograph taken in 1991 National Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi casts his ballot at a polling station in New Delhi. Picture: STEFAN ELLIS/FILES

New Delhi

The government of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has decided to free the three men and one woman convicted for the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, news reports said on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentences of the three men -Murugan, Santhan and Perivalan - to life in prison, citing an 11-year delay in deciding on their petitions for mercy.

The three men have been on death row in a Tamil Nadu jail since 1991.

The fourth convict, Murugan's wife Nalini, had her death penalty commuted to life imprisonment in 1999.

The four, linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, were convicted of plotting the assassination of Gandhi at an election rally in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.

Gandhi and 17 others were killed when a woman greeted him with a garland at the rally and detonated bombs strapped to her chest.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha's cabinet decided to free the convicts on Wednesday, NDTV news channel reported.

The Tamil Nadu state assembly had in 2011 passed a resolution urging the Indian president to grant mercy to the three convicted men keeping in mind “Tamil sentiments.” - Sapa-dpa