The Supreme Court today asked Tamil Nadu Governor to consider a petition filed by Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, for remission of sentence.
A three-judge bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Naveen Sinha and K.M. Joseph gave this order while disposing of the Centre’s petition on a proposal for the release of all the seven convicts in the case filed by the Tamil Nadu government.
Perarivalan, a resident of Chennai, was convicted on the charge that he got a nine-volt battery which LTTE suicide bomber Dhanu used in her belt bomb to kill the former Prime Minister when he came to Sriperumpudur to address an election rally on May 31, 1991.
Perarivalan, along Indian national Nalini, her husband and LTTE member Murugan and Santhan, another member of the LTTE killer squad, were initially sentenced to death by the trial court and it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1998.
However, Nalini got an immediate reprieve as Tamil Nadu Governor commuted her death penalty to life at the intervention of Sonia Gandhi. In February 2014, the apex court also commuted the death sentence of the other three to life on the ground of inordinate delay in taking decision on their mercy petition by the Governor.
Perarivalan petitioned the Governor on Dec 30, 2015 for remission of sentence under Art 161 of the Constitution. He contended that a lifer was entitled to seek remission after 20 years and he had already spent 24 years in jail
As no decision has been taken so far, he moved the Supreme Court on Aug 20. The apex court thereupon directed the Governor to take a decision on his petition.
Besides Perarivalan, Nalini, Murugan and Santhan, three others co-convicts are also in jail. They are Sri Lankan nationals Robert Payas and Jayakumar and Indian national Ravichandran.
On March 2, 2016, the Tamil Nadu Government sought the Cenrte’s concurrence to release all seven of them in view of an earlier apex court order that it was required in CBI investigated cases. The Centre rejected it on the ground that the convicts had a heinous crime which derailed the elections to the Lok Sabha ..
The three-bench has in its order today said that the Governor can use his power of pardon and remission under Art 161 even in a CBI investigated case like this.
This prompted Tamil nationalists to seek release all of them. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalan has said today’s judgement has cleared an obstacle created by a verdict delivered by a five-judge Constitution bench in December 2015 that convicts in CBI prosecuted cases cannot be released by States without the concurrence of the Centre.