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How can Constitutional authorities sit on files indefinitely? asks HC judge

Raises the query on the issue of releasing Rajiv case convicts

Justice N. Kirubakaran of the Madras High Court on Wednesday questioned the delay in disposing of the State Cabinet’s recommendation to the Governor on September 8, 2018, to release all seven life convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The seven have been in jail for 29 years.

During the hearing of a case seeking 90-day parole for convict A.G. Perarivalan, the judge said: “Nobody, much less a constitutional authority, can sit on a file like this. The makers of the Constitution did not prescribe a time limit because of the immense trust they had on people who may come to occupy high constitutional posts.”

Leading a Division Bench along with Justice V.M. Velumani, he said: “The recommendation can be either accepted or rejected but the decision should be taken within a reasonable time. Otherwise, courts will have no option but to interfere.” The views were expressed to Additional Public Prosecutor Prabhavati Ram, representing the State.

The judge went on to clarify: “By observing these things, we do not condone the acts of these convicts. They have conspired together and taken the lives of not only a former Prime Minister but also that of many innocent people including policemen. No doubt that it was a cruel assassination. This one heinous crime did change so many things in the country.”

Health complications

Earlier, senior counsel R. Shunmugasundaram, representing the writ petitioner G. Arputham, 72, said her son could be shown some leniency in grant of parole since he had been under incarceration for nearly three decades. He claimed that the convict was suffering from several health complications and hence vulnerable to COVID-19 inside the prison.

The senior counsel and the petitioner’s counsel on record S. Saravanan said despite the Cabinet's recommendation, the convicts were not being let out because Governor Banwarilal Purohit was yet to take a decision. The issue had been pending with the Governor for nearly two years now.

Responding, the APP said the petitioner’s son was already granted parole between November 12, 2019 and January 12, 2020. “As per prison rules, the convict will become eligible for next parole only after two years,” she said. The APP sought time for appearance of State Public Prosecutor A. Natarajan to answer queries on the larger issue related to permanent release.

Accepting her request, the judges adjourned the case to July 29 for further hearing.

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