Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has reportedly rejected the Tamil Nadu Government’s decision to release the seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
The Governor, who was sitting on the decision taken by Tamil Nadu Government through a Cabinet resolution in September last year, has conveyed his disinclination to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami informally, local reports have said.
Art 161 of the Constitution under which the Governor exercises his power to grant remission of sentence or commute death sentence to life does not give unfettered power to the executive head.
The Supreme Court, while entertaining a petition by Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts, has said it cannot give a direction to the Governor to take a decision on his mercy petition. However, when the Governor exercises his power, it is quasi judicial and it can be subjected to judicial review.
It is emphasized by the Supreme Court in Maru Ram v. Union of India that the pardoning power is not absolute under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution. It can be exercised by the Central and State Governments, but not by the President or Governor on their own. The advice of the appropriate Government binds the Head of the State.
In other words, if the Tamil Nadu Cabinet resends the same decision to the Governor, he will be bound to accept it. But again, whether the Tamil Nadu Government will have the political courage to do so when the Governor is supposed to reflect the will of the Centre remains to be seen.
The Centre had on August 10 told the apex court when it was hearing Perarivalan’s petition that it does not concur with the Tamil Nadu government's proposal to release the seven convicts, saying remission of their sentence will set a "dangerous precedent" and have "international ramifications".
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Madurai jail, one of the seven life convicts in Rajiv Gandhi case Ravichandran has welcomed the reported decision of the Central Cabinet to release eight Punjab life convicts and commute the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana , a Sikh militant convicted for the murder of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh and sentenced to death. However, his execution was stayed by the UPA Government in 2012.
Ravichandran has pleaded that the same consideration be shown to the seven life convicts who have been jail for the past 28 years.