The Central Information Commission has condoned the delay on the part of A.G. Perarivalan, convict on death row in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, in filing an appeal under the Right to Information Act seeking to know the reasons why his mercy plea was rejected by the President.

In an interim order, Central Information Commissioner Sushma Singh allowed him to make written submissions and directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to file its reply within seven days. For the first time, the CIC is hearing through videoconferencing an RTI petition filed by a convict facing the death penalty. A copy of the interim order was sent to Perarivalan, who is lodged in Vellore Central Prison.

The CIC referred to a submission of the MHA dated March 18, 2013, which said Perarivalan had filed a petition on December 28, 2011 and it was dismissed. Any appeal under the provisions of the RTI Act should be made within 30 days of receiving the reply, whereas the convict preferred the first appeal after more than 90 days. The MHA submitted that the second plea from Perarivalan also came after the prescribed 90-day period and hence was liable to be dismissed. It contended that the case was sub judice and the file concerned was in the Supreme Court’s custody.

In its order, the CIC said, “The delay in filing the second appeal is condoned as the appellant is a death penalty convict and the subject matter pertains to his life and liberty. After hearing both parties at length, the commission grants an opportunity to the appellant to file his written submissions.”

Perarivalan, Murugan alias Sriharan and Santhan are facing the death penalty in the case and have been lodged in Vellore prison since 1999. The death penalty awarded to Nalini, wife of Murugan, was commuted to life sentence.

At an earlier hearing through videoconferencing, Perarivalan raised the question why his mercy plea was not considered while that of Nalini, cited as accused number one, and who was present at the scene of assassination, was considered favourably. He also contended that the legal position — that no court could go into the nature of the advice given by the Council of Ministers to the President in a matter of clemency — did not mean that the person affected did not have the right to know why he was denied mercy.

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