Rajiv Gandhi assassination case | Tamil Nadu Governor declines to take call on convict Perarivalan’s plea

President is ‘competent authority’ to deal with request for freedom, says Banwarilal Purohit.

Published - February 04, 2021 11:00 pm IST - NEW DELHI/CHENNAI

Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A.G. Perarivalan. File

Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A.G. Perarivalan. File

Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has refrained from taking a call on a plea for the early release of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A.G. Perarivalan. The Governor said the President of India was the “appropriate competent authority” to deal with Perarivalan’s request for freedom.

“His Excellency the Governor of Tamil Nadu considered all the facts on record and after perusal of the relevant documents, recorded that the Honourable President of India is the appropriate competent authority to deal with the request for remittance vide his order dated January 25, 2021. The proposal received by the Central government will be processed in accordance with law,” the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Supreme Court in a short affidavit on Thursday.

Also read | Perarivalan’s parents firmly hope he will be released

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao is scheduled to take up the case on February 9.

The MHA affidavit highlighted that the case against Perarivalan concerned the assassination of none other than a former Prime Minister of India. Forty three other people sustained serious injuries in the bomb explosion at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu in 1991.

“Pertinently, the offence committed was pertaining to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, by means of detonating a bomb which resulted in the killing of 18 innocent individuals and causing serious injuries to 43 other persons,” the MHA noted.

Also read | Opinion divided on Governor’s options in release of Rajiv case convicts

On January 21, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Governor, had submitted that Perarivalan’s plea for early release would be considered in a week . Mr. Mehta’s statement in court at the time had come as a relief for Perarivalan’s family and lawyers.

In fact, the Tamil Nadu State Cabinet had, on September 9, 2018, recommended the Governor to pardon all seven convicts in the assassination case, including Perarivalan, serving life imprisonment. The Governor, however, had not acted on the recommendation for over two years, prompting Perarivalan to approach the Supreme Court about the delay. Even the apex court had termed the Governor’s delay “extraordinary” .

Comment | Rajiv Gandhi assassination: The seven convicts have suffered enough

By not taking a decision on the pardon plea, the Governor is now on the same page as the Centre, which had opened a novel line of argument in the Supreme Court that pleas for pardon and release should go to the President instead of the Governor.

The Centre had, for the first time, raised the point about the Tamil Nadu Governor’s power to grant remission to Perarivalan under Article 161 of the Constitution in November 2020.

But senior advocate Sankaranarayanan and advocate Prabu Ramasubramanian, for Perarivalan, had countered that a convict was free to choose between the President and the Governor for pardon.

They had, to this extent, referred to the Constitution Bench’s judgment in the Union of India versus Sriharan of December 2015, which said the “exercise of executive clemency” was “vested in the President or the Governor”.

CM’s appeal

Meanwhile, earlier on Thursday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami expressed hope in the State Assembly on Thursday that the Governor would take a favourable decision in view of the State government’s representation insisting on the release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Mr. Palaniswami accused the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) of attempting to “stage political drama” over the issue to gain sympathy in the forthcoming Assembly polls.

The CM recalled his calling on the Governor on January 29 to hand over a representation seeking to release all the seven convicts in the case. “I have been insisting the Governor decide at the earliest to release all the seven whenever I get a chance to meet him,” he said.

Launching a tirade against the DMK in the House, Mr. Palaniswami recalled the developments in the case and pointed out how the erstwhile DMK government, under then chief minister M. Karunanidhi, favoured the pardoning of only one of the convicts — Nalini, the lone woman convict in the case — and not all of them.

“Why has the DMK, which seems to claim to live for the welfare of Tamils, not passed a resolution seeking to condone capital punishment for the other three persons? There is no answer to this question to this day,” Mr. Palaniswami pointed out.

“The general public have been watching all this. I have made it clear which party has been favouring the release of all seven persons and which government has been taking steps towards their release,” Mr. Palaniswami said.

( Inputs from Dennis S. Jesudasan )

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