The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Tamil Nadu Governor to consider the mercy petition of A.G. Perarivalan, a convict in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Naveen Sinha and K.M. Joseph disposed of the Centre’s petition on a proposal for the release of the convicts in the case filed by the Tamil Nadu government.
On August 10, the Centre told the apex court that it did not concur with the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to release the seven convicts in the case, saying remission of their sentence will set a “dangerous precedent” and have “international ramifications”. It said the case involved the assassination of a former Prime Minister in a brutal manner in pursuance of a “diabolical” plot carefully conceived and executed by a foreign terrorist organisation.
On August 20, 47-year-old Perarivalan alias Arivu told the court that no decision had been taken as yet on his mercy petition filed before the Tamil Nadu Governor on December 30, 2015 under Article 161 of the Constitution.
Perarivalan was charged with supplying a 9-volt battery, which was allegedly used for the belt bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi and 14 others on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. The belt bomb was triggered by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at an election rally.
This was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing that claimed the life of a high profile leader.
Perarivalan had said he had suffered more than 24 years of solitary/single confinement. “As per jail rules, life imprisonment at ground level is only for a maximum of 20 years and thereafter the prisoner is considered for release. Now I have already undergone more than life imprisonment,” his letter to the Governor said.
Probe is partial, alleges Perarivalan
He had also claimed that the probe was not full-fledged and was incomplete and partial. “The main culprits who designed the bomb made of RDX were not nabbed till date. They are scot-free and investigation is still pending into the vital aspects of the crime itself,” the letter said.
“The charge sheet of the CBI [Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Authority - MDMA], which was constituted pursuant to the Jain Commission report for further investigation of foreign hand in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, is still pending and the real conspirators are yet to be found.There will be no justification in keeping me behind bars even after 25 years of actual punishment when the investigation is itself pending”, the letter said.
Perarivalan, V. Sriharan alias Murugan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santham, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, P. Ravichandaran and Nalini have been in jail for 25 years.
On January 23, the apex court asked the Centre to take a decision within three months on a 2016 letter of the Tamil Nadu government written on March 2, 2016, seeking its concurrence on releasing the seven convicts.
The apex court on February 18, 2014, commuted the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, citing inordinate delay by the executive in deciding their mercy plea.
The probe was transferred to a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the CBI on the request of the Tamil Nadu government and the SIT named 41 accused in its charge sheet — including 12, who died in the blast and three who were absconding — before a TADA court in Chennai. The prolonged trial culminated in 1998, when the TADA court sentenced 26 of the accused to death.
In May 1999, the apex court upheld the death sentence of Murugan, Santham, Perarivalan and Nalini, commuted the death sentence of three to life, and freed the remaining 19.
In April 2000, the Tamil Nadu Governor commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the basis of State government’s recommendation and an appeal by Rajiv Gandhi’s wife and then Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The death sentence of remaining three convicts were commuted in February 2014 by the apex court on the ground of inordinate delay of 11 years in deciding the mercy petitions.