Translation of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s Statement in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on the issue of commuting the death sentence imposed on three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case
The members of the Assembly know that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991 during the election campaign. The trial of the case was held at the TADA court in Poonammallee and all the 26 accused were awarded death sentence. They filed an appeal in the Supreme Court and the Apex court, while acquitting 19 persons, commuted the death sentence of three and confirmed the death sentence of Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. They filed a review petition in the Supreme Court, but the court rejected their applications on October 10, 1999.
They sent mercy petitions to the Governor of Tamil Nadu on October 17, 1999. The Governor rejected their petitions on October 27, 1999.
Later they filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court and the Court allowed their petitions while setting aside the order of the Governor. The court also ruled that the Governor could issue a fresh order after getting the advice of the Cabinet.
The following decision was taken in the cabinet meeting chaired by the then Chief Minister in April 19, 2000:
"Taking into consideration the view of the Chief Minister that the daughter of Nalini, one of the four sentenced to be hanged, will be orphaned, the cabinet decided to advise the Governor to commute her death sentence to one of life and reject the mercy petitions of the others."
The Governor, on April 21, 2000, accepted the advice of the Cabinet. Accordingly, the death sentence of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan was confirmed. On April 28, 2000, the state government sent the mercy petitions of the three to the Central government, to be forwarded to the President of India. The Union Home Ministry, on August 12, 2011, sent a letter informing that the President had rejected their mercy petitions and directed the state government to convey the same to the three convicts. The message was conveyed to them.
In the meantime, there are media reports that leaders of various political parties have sent memorandums to me for saving the lives of these three persons. Arputhamammal, mother of Perarivalan, has also written to me to save her son. Director Bharathiraja has written a letter to me, informing me about a resolution adopted the Tamil Nadu Film Directors’ Association seeking that the death sentences be annulled. A few others have also written to me in this regard.
A point that should be noted by everyone is that former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has also requested me to save the lives of the three persons. But the same Karunanidhi, when he was Chief Minister of the state, adopted a resolution in the Cabinet that the death sentence of the three could be confirmed. It was sent to the Governor and the Governor also accepted the decision.
After confirming the death sentence of the three, after doing what he did, he is now feigning innocence and issuing a statement for saving their lives. The Tamil people should realise that this is nothing but an instance of his playing a dual role, a mockery and a farcical drama.
It is wrong to say that I have the powers to annul the death sentence of Perarivalan and two others or that I can use the powers to save them. I don’t know whether the leaders of political parties are aware of the legal position but are still seeking to give an impression as though I have the power, or whether they are ignorant of the law while making statements that the Chief Minister has powers in this regard.
So it is my duty to explain to the people the legal position through the House.
As per the Constitution, the death sentence awarded by the Supreme Court can be commuted only by the President of India or the Governor of a state. If there was a view that these three persons deserve to be pardoned, a decision could have been taken in the Cabinet meeting chaired by Mr Karunanidhi. As per the decision of the Cabinet, the mercy petitions of Perarivalan and two others were rejected by the Governor and later by the President of India. And now, as Chief Minister, I have neither the power to annul the death sentence nor the power to put the execution on hold. The Central government has made it clear that the state government cannot ask the Governor to consider any mercy petition after the President of India has rejected it. The letter sent by the Union Home Minister in March 5, 1991 reads as follows:
"The government of India, on an examination of the matter and after taking all relevant Constitutional aspects into view, direct in terms of article 257(1) of the Constitution of India that in cases of death sentences where a petition for grant of pardon etc. has earlier been rejected by the President of India in exercise of powers under Article 72 of the Constitution, it would not be open to for a State government to seek to exercise similar powers under Article 161 in respect of the same case. However, if there is a change of circumstances or if any new material is available, the condemned person himself or anyone on his behalf may make a fresh application to the President for reconsideration of the earlier order. Once the President has rejected a mercy petition, all future applications in this behalf should be addressed to and would be dealt with by the President of India."
So as Chief Minister I don’t have the powers to change the decision after the President of India rejected the mercy petitions of Perarivalan and two others. I also request the leaders of the political parties not to carry out any propaganda that I have such powers.
I am pained to learn of the suicide of Senkodi, a young girl belonging to an organisation called the Makkal Mandram, who has left a note saying she was committing suicide to save the lives of the three persons since the President of India has rejected their mercy petitions. I request everyone not to act impulsively and commit such acts.