A.G. Perarivalan, one of the three convicts on death row in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, has written to the Central Information Commission (CIC) seeking to know why his mercy petition was rejected while the death penalty of Nalini Sriharan, first accused in the case, was commuted to life imprisonment.
In a written submission sent to the CIC from Vellore Central Prison, Perarivalan said that going by the case of the prosecution, Nalini was arrayed as the first accused and was present at the place of occurrence (when the bomb blast took place in Sriperumbudur in May 1991). The death penalty awarded to her was commuted to life sentence.
“On the other hand, being the 18 accused in the case, my mercy petition has been rejected without assigning any reason. It is well settled law that the death penalty shall be inflicted only in ‘rarest of rare cases’. In other words, those awarded death penalty are considered to fall under one category. In such case, I want to know whether the fact of commutation of the sentence of the first accused [Nalini] was considered before disposing my mercy petition and if it was considered, I would like to know the basis for treating me on a different platform,” he asked.
Perarivalan had a 30-minute video conference with Central Information Commissioner Sushma Singh and Joint Secretary (Judicial), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), J.L. Chugh on May 9, 2013. He was advised by the CIC to make a written submission of his prayer.
Pointing out that he was in prison since June 12, 1999 as a death row convict, Perarivalan said his mercy plea was rejected by the President. “However, I have been placed in complete darkness with regard to the reasons behind the rejection of my clemency petition...it is a duty cast upon every public authority under Section 4(1) (d) of the RTI Act to proactively communicate the reasons for any administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to the affected party.”
He said neither the MHA nor the President’s Secretariat provided him with the reasons for the rejection of his mercy plea. Since his execution was temporarily stayed and that he was at the verge of being hanged, the convict emphasised that the information sought by him directly pertained to his life and liberty.
Referring to a statement made by Justice K.T. Thomas, who headed the three-member Bench of the Supreme Court that awarded the death penalty, Perarivalan said the former judge had said the judgment had “errors” and that the antecedents, nature and character of the persons involved in the case were not considered and hence any decision to hang them could be termed constitutionally incorrect.
By law, the advice of the Council of Ministers to the President on the clemency issue could not be inquired into by any court. But that does not mean that the citizens or the affected person would not have the right know the reasons for the rejection of the mercy plea.
Perarivalan appealed to the CIC to furnish the copies of all documents that were considered for taking a decision on his mercy petition.