Tamil Nadu Cabinet recommends release of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts

The Cabinet decides to recommend release of Murugan, Santhan, A.G. Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Ravichandran, Robert Payas and Nalini Sriharan.

September 09, 2018 06:19 pm | Updated September 10, 2018 08:28 am IST - Chennai

A.G. Perarivalan, one of the life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. File

A.G. Perarivalan, one of the life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. File

A meeting of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, on Sunday evening recommended to Governor Banwarilal Purohit that all seven life convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case be released under Article 161 of the Constitution.

The decision followed the Supreme Court’s observation last week that the Governor shall be at liberty to decide on the remission application of Perarivalan, one of the convicts, “as deemed fit.” The convicts — Nalini, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Sriharan alias Murugan (Nalini’s husband), A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu, Robert Payas, S. Jayakumar alias Jayakumaran, and Ravichandran alias Ravi — have been in jail for over 27 years. Santhan, Murugan, Payas and Jayakumar are Sri Lankan Tamils.


On Perarivalan’s plea

Briefing journalists after the two-hour Cabinet meeting, Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar said that though the Supreme Court’s direction came on Perarivalan’s plea, the other six convicts had also pleaded to the Governor and the State government for remission of their sentences. The official communication about the Cabinet resolution would be sent to the Governor on Sunday itself, Mr. Jayakumar said.

Political leaders, including DMK president M.K. Stalin, welcomed the decision.

Asked if the decision would stand scrutiny, Mr. Jayakumar said, “The Governor will have to accept recommendations of the Council of Ministers. There is nothing to reject.”

 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts A.G. Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan. File

Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts A.G. Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan. File


Article 161 empowers the Governor to grant pardons and to suspend, remit or commute sentences of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.

To a question on the contention that the State government could not decide on a case investigated by a Central government agency, the Minister said, “Whatever it may be, law is only interpreted by the authority concerned — the Supreme Court, the highest in hierarchy. The Supreme Court’s direction is clear.”

Asked about the duties and responsibilities of the State government and those of the Governor on such issues, Mr. Jayakumar said: “Governor represents the State.. He is the Executive [head] for the State. Whatever decision is taken by the government, it will be implemented, executed and issued by the Governor.”

On the opposition in some quarters to the decision to recommend the release of persons convicted in the assassination of a former Prime Minister, Mr. Jayakumar said: “See, the CBI undertook the investigation. That is past. What is present that is important.”


According to Mr. Jayakumar, the entire Tamil people supported the release of the convicts. “It was only based on their sentiments, the Cabinet in 2014 (headed by Jayalalithaa) passed a resolution to release them. We have been reflecting the sentiments of the Tamil people,” Mr. Jayakumar said, listing the efforts taken towards their release since.

On whether the Governor, a Central government appointee, could go against the stand of the Centre in this issue, Mr. Jayakumar reiterated, “Governor has to accept the decision taken at the Cabinet meeting.”

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a LTTE human bomb Dhanu at an election rally in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on the night of May 21, 1991. Fifteen other persons, including nine policemen, were killed in the explosion and 43 people were injured. The Special Investigation Team into the assassination had chargesheeted 41 accused, of whom 26 were tried. A dozen LTTE operatives, including one of the masterminds Sivarasan and his accomplice Shuba, committed suicide. Three were declared absconders.

While the trial court awarded death penalty to all 26 accused, the Supreme Court released 19 of them and upheld capital punishment for Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, and commuted the death sentence to life in the case of three others.

In April 2000, Governor Fathima Beevi commuted Nalini’s death sentence, while the remaining three black warrant prisoners obtained a reprieve from the Supreme Court in February 2014 citing inordinate delay by the President in deciding on their mercy petitions.

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