The Supreme Court of India will today give orders on a plea requesting the release of AG Perarivalan, one of the lifelong convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, who has been behind bars for 31 years. A favorable verdict will pave the way for the release of six other convicts in the case, including Nalini Sriharan and her husband Murugan, a Sri Lankan citizen.
Nineteen years old at the time of the assassination, Perarivalan was accused of buying the two 9-volt batteries for Sivarasan, the LTTE man who masterminded the assassination. The batteries were used in the bombing to kill Rajiv Gandhi.
Perarivalan was sentenced to death in 1998 by a TADA court. The following year, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence, but in 2014 converted it to life in prison. In March this year, the Supreme Court granted him bail.
Shortly afterwards, Perarivalan appealed for an early release from prison.
The center opposed Perarivalan’s plea, saying that the governor of Tamil Nadu had referred the matter to President Ram Nath Kovind, who had not yet appealed.
The Supreme Court questioned the delay in the case and the Governor’s action.
The court noted that the Tamil Nadu governor is bound by the cabinet decision to release all seven convicts in the case, granting them remission under Article 161 of the Constitution, and therefore would not wait for the president’s response. , although the governor filed the file at the President’s office.
At the trial last week, the Center quickly withdrew from the court over its argument that in cases of mercy, only the President will have exclusive powers.
The court said it would mean the mercy the governors had granted over the years would be unconstitutional.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur by a female suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, during a polling station rally.
Seven people were convicted in the case. Although all were sentenced to death, the Supreme Court converted them to life sentences in 2014, citing excessive delay by the President in deciding on their pleas for mercy.
The jail sentence of one of them, Nalini Sriharan, was commuted to life imprisonment in 2000 after intervention by Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi, as the woman gave birth to a child while she was in prison.
Although the Tamil Nadu cabinet under J Jayalalithaa and Edappadi K Palanisami recommended the release of the convicts in 2016 and 2018, successive governors did not stick to it. After much delay, they sent it to the President, who acts only on the advice of the Union Cabinet.
Perarivalan and others moved courts because they were denied forgiveness like other convicts even after serving more than 16 years. They have now spent three decades in jail.
Perarivalan, who has been in solitary confinement for many years, has a very good behavioral record in prison. He earned several academic qualifications during his long prison sentence. He also wrote a book.
While Perarivalan has been claiming all along that he was not aware of the purpose he was asked to get the batteries, a retired CBI official, Mr Thiagarajan, apologized and claimed that he had changed Perarivalan’s statement of confession .