The Supreme Court Wednesday rejected Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A G Perarivalan’s plea for recalling its order upholding his conviction.
A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, R Banumathi and M M Shantanagoudar said the materials brought on record do not inspire confidence to interfere with the May 11, 1999 verdict in which Perarivalan and three others were awarded death sentence. However, in February 2014, the court commuted Perarivalan’s death sentence along with that of two others on grounds of delay of 11 years by the Centre in deciding their mercy pleas.
Opposing his plea, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for CBI, contended that it was not “maintainable” and his role in the conspiracy had been “clearly established”.
Perarivalan, who was accused of supplying two 9-volt batteries which were used in the bomb that killed Gandhi, had based his petition on the basis of a statement by former CBI official V Thiagarajan, who investigated the case. The officer had said that Perarivalan had told him that he had no knowledge for what purpose the batteries were purchased but he had not recorded this while taking his statement.
But the CBI said Perarivalan’s role was not limited to procuring 9-volt batteries. “He had even visited Jaffna in Sri Lanka in the first week of June 1990, besides attending a public meeting along with other conspirators which was addressed by former Prime Minister V P Singh on May 7, 1991 in Tamil Nadu,” Anand said.
Advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, who appeared for Perarivalan, said knowledge and intent were the two key points attributed to his client which may not be correct and all aspects have to be looked into.
But the bench was not impressed and said, “in a case of this nature, there can be only circumstantial evidence. If there is reasonable inference, we have to believe…Your sympathy for LTTE, your association with other accused, your hatred for the target — all are admitted facts. In this backdrop, if the court has come to a conclusion of guilt and the conviction has reached finality in 1999, review dismissed and death commuted, is it correct for us to sit on it?”
“Even if we are to give you the benefit of the statement of the investigating officer that he did not record the exculpatory part, even that would not make any difference” as there was enough in the statement to point to Perarivalan’s guilt, Justice Gogoi said.
“When we look into the entire facts and circumstances, we find that he (Perarivalan) was an engineer in electronics, knew the purpose for which batteries were used, was part of a conspiracy to attack Vellore Fort, had common hatred towards one person and had openly accepted that he was a member of LTTE. Was all this not sufficient for the court to arrive at a conclusion,” he asked.
Shankaranarayanan contended that Perarivalan was just a 19-year-old when the incident took place and had no knowledge of what he was doing and for what purpose the batteries were purchased.
Shankarnarayanan said the batteries were purchased on May 7, 1991 while the incident had taken place on May 21, 1991 and “was it not odd that entire explosive belt was sent from Sri Lanka except the two batteries”.