With the Supreme Court commuting the death penalty of 15 persons on Tuesday, Arputham Kuildasan, the 67-year-old mother of death row inmate A G Perarivalan, believes her son, too, is spared the gallows when the petition is considered on January 29.
Since his arrest on June 11, 1991, for alleged involvement in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, she has been walking through that dark tunnel and there finally is light at the other end.
“The fight to prove his innocence was so far beset with disappointments, with the threat of imminent death hanging over his head for 15 long years. After all these years, today I know my son is safe from the gallows. I now know he will come home to me one day,” she said.
Perarivalan, Sriharan alias Murugan and Santhan were awarded the death penalty for their alleged involvement in the plot to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi, and have been lodged at the Vellore Central Jail. The efforts to save her son made her a passionate campaigner against the death penalty, and she was in touch with many among those who received reprieve from the apex court on Tuesday.
When the judges were delivering the significant judgment in the morning, Arputham was at the Chennai book fair where she has a stall selling books, including one penned by Arivu, ‘An appeal from the death row’. The books also include many against the death penalty, written by retired supreme court judges V R Krishna Iyer and P N Bhagwati.
Since morning, she has been surrounded by activists, friends and those who sympathised with the mother fighting for her son’s life. They were all given sweets. Some took her autograph on the books, many wanted to take photographs with her.
For the first time in years, she looked cheerful. Her mobile phone rang incessantly. They all are confident that the inordinate delay will make Arivu eligible for commutation. “But we have to continue our campaign against death penalty,” she reminded each of them.
“With today’s verdict, the Supreme Court has finally brought a closure to the question regarding inordinate and inexplicable delay as valid ground for commutation of death sentence. This will have a direct bearing on the case of Perarivalan, Sriharan and Santhan, the three facing death in Rajiv Gandhi case,” said advocate M Radhakrishnan, the lawyer who represented S Nalini, a co-convict in the case and Sriharan’s wife whose death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2000.
The verdict was welcomed by various political parties in Tamil Nadu, especially the smaller outfits who have been actively campaigning for the trio. MDMK general secretary Vaiko, who had filed several petitions in the case, said the verdict gave hope to Rajiv case convicts. VCK leader Thol Thirumavalan MP also echoed him, lauding the “historic judgment” by the Supreme Court.
DDC vice-chairperson Ashish Khetan said, “As of today he does not hold the charge anymore.”