The Tamil Nadu Cabinet is meeting in Chennai on Sunday to consider the release of all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case in the wake of the Supreme Court’s directive to the Governor to consider the mercy plea of Perarivalan.
Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Navin Sinha and K M Joseph gave this direction to the Governor to take a decision as he deemed fit on Perarivalan’s mercy petition filed on Dec 30, 2015.
After giving the direction, the bench disposed of a writ petition filed by the Centre in 2014 opposing the decision of then Jayalalitha Government to release all the seven of them.
On 19 February 2014,Jayalalitha announced her government’s decision to release all the seven convicts. The decision came a day after the Supreme Court commuted to life the death penalty of three of them-- Murugan, Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan,
The UPA Government filed the writ petition in the Supreme Court and got a stay on their release. It was formalised by another order of the Modi Government of April 2018, saying that the assasaination of Rajiv Gandhi by a foreign terrorist organization had “international ramifications” and releasing convicts in the case will set a wrong precedent.
While passing order on Peraivalan’s petition, the Supreme Court bench also disposed of the pending writ petition of the Centre, saying that in view of the order passed by the Home Ministry, “nothing would survive for consideration in this writ petition” in which the Tamil Nadu Government, and Murugan and other convicts were respondents.
The view taken by DMK and other parties as well as the Government is that in asking the concerned authorities to consider Perarivalan’s mercy petition, the apex court has said in effect that the Governor’s power to grant pardon under Art 161 can be invoked even in cases investigated by central agencies like the CBI without the concurrence of the Centre.
State Law Minister C V Shanmugham has also said the Government is committed to the decision taken by late Chief Miniser J Jayalalitha to release all the seven convicts. The State Cabinet is, therefore, expected to recommend to the Governor to remit the sentences of all the seven convicts and set them at liberty.
If the Cabinet sends such a recommendation, the Governor can send it for reconsideration in view of the stand taken by the Centre. But he will be bound by Cabinet advice if the recommendation is sent back to him.However, the Governor can sit on such a recommendation as no time limit can be fixed for a decision.