The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the multi-agency probe into the "larger conspiracy" behind the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has not made much headway and seems to be "endless".
This became one of the primary reasons for the court agreeing to hear convict A.G. Perarivalan's arguments to reopen his entire case on the basis of the fact that a former CBI officer has now come forward, after 26 years, to divulge in the court that certain portions of Perarivalan's confession showing his innocence under TADA was deliberately omitted to bolster the assassination case.
A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R. Banumathi asked advocates Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Prabhu Ramasubramanium to lead arguments on two points - one, for the early conclusion of the multi-agency probe into the larger conspiracy. Two, a re-examination of Perarivalan's guilt and intention, or complete lack of it, in the light of the sworn statement made by the former probe officer, V. Thiagarajan, that the then 19-year-old Perarivalan had "absolutely no idea" about the deadly purpose of the two nine-volt batteries he had bought and handed over to the assassins.
Perarivalan has been in solitary confinement for 23 years for his role in procuring the two batteries which, the prosecution said, was used in the belt bomb that killed Mr. Gandhi in 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.
Mr. Thiagarajan, in an affidavit dated October 27, 2017, submitted that Perarivalan's statement that "he was totally in the dark as to the purpose for which the batteries were purchased was not recorded by me, because it would have been an exculpatory statement and hence the whole purpose of recording the confessional statement would be lost".
Justice Gogoi advised Mr. Sankaranarayanan, "You have two choices. One is to seek an early conclusion to the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Authority [MDMA] enquiry [into the larger conspiracy]. Two, re-open the entire case against you."
The court, however, did not see eye-to-eye with Mr. Sankaranarayan pressing for the suspension of Perarivalan's sentence on the basis of Mr. Thiagarajan's statement.
Centre files affidavit
The Union government handed over its affidavit to the court but chose not to respond to Mr. Thiagarajan's affidavit and whether it would be a step towards exonerating Perarivalan.
Mr. Sankaranarayanan urged the court to release Perarivalan "till the confusion of the MDMA probe into the larger conspiracy is over".
Justice Gogoi replied, "We have seen reports of the CBI which show not much headway has been made. This seems to be endless."
Mr. Sankaranarayanan said he was seeking liberty on the basis of a tardy probe done in his case.
"But yours is a case in which conviction has already attained finality," Justice Gogoi said while repeatedly suggesting counsel to file a review.
When Mr. Sankaranarayanan said reviews had been dismissed earlier, Justice Gogoi even went to the extent of pointing out that the "court is still not powerless" and can definitely consider a fresh review in the light of the recent developments.
The court posted the case for detailed hearing on January 24.