Tamil Nadu

I have no opinion on release of Perarivalan, says judge who framed charges in Rajiv assassination case

Justice S.M. Siddick, who had framed charges on 251 counts against 26 accused in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case on December 1, 1993, refused to comment on the Supreme Court’s recent order releasing one of the convicts, A.G. Perarivalan, after 31 years of incarceration.

“I am sorry, I don’t have any opinion on this issue,” said Justice Siddick, when his views were sought after Justice K.T. Thomas, a retired Supreme Court judge who had dealt with an appeal preferred by the 26 convicts, had welcomed the release on humanitarian grounds.

Justice Siddick had dealt with the case during his stint as the presiding officer of the designated court for cases booked under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987. However, he was elevated as a judge of the Madras High Court in 1996 when the trial was midway.

His successor in the TADA court V. Navaneetham continued with the trial and awarded the death sentence to all 26 accused in January 1998, the year when Justice Siddick retired from the High Court. However, on appeal, the Supreme Court confirmed the capital punishment for only four in 1999.

When approached to know his views on the recent release of one of the convicts, Mr. Navaneenatham, too, refused to indulge in any sort of discussion on the case. “Don’t talk to me about this case at all,” he replied bluntly, not wanting to take the conversation any further.

The CBI had laid a charge sheet running to 55 pages, along with supporting documents of over 10,000 pages, before the TADA court on May 20, 1992, exactly a day before the first anniversary of the assassination. However, prosecutor P. Rajamanickam could make his opening statement only on May 5, 1993.

The delay of nearly one year was due to multiple petitions filed by the accused before the Supreme Court, the Madras High Court as well as the TADA court, seeking one relief or the other. Even after the commencement of arguments by the prosecution, it took seven months for the trial court to frame the charges.

Though 1,044 witnesses were cited in the charge sheet, the prosecution examined only 288 of them and surprisingly only four of them turned hostile, despite its being a sensational case. A total of 1,477 exhibits and 1,180 material objects were also marked during the trial which extended for about four years.

The CBI had actually listed 41 accused, of whom 12 had died and three more, including Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Prabhakaran, his intelligence chief Pottu Amman and woman leader Akila, were declared as absconding accused. Therefore, only 26 accused produced before the TADA court were put on trial.

The entire proceedings were held in-camera and under the provisions of the TADA Act which permits even statements made by the accused to police officers admissible in evidence. The trial took place in the cordoned-off high security court-cum-prison campus on the outskirts of Chennai city at Poonnamalee.

Interestingly, Justice N. Dhinakar, another retired judge of the Madras High Court, was in the panel of CBI prosecutors in the assassination case before his elevation as a judge in October 1994.

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Printable version | Jun 7, 2022 7:36:39 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/i-have-no-opinion-on-release-of-perarivalan-says-judge-who-framed-charges-in-rajiv-assassination-case/article65459253.ece