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After SC orders A G Perarivalan’s release, former judge K T Thomas says he should live ‘happily hereafter’

Justice Thomas had pleaded with Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi to show magnanimity, and called the Tamil Nadu governor’s decision to pass the buck to the President “unheard and unconstitutional”.

Justice Thomas said he is still wondering why the Tamil Nadu governor ignored the state cabinet’s recommendation to release them for so many years.

Justice K T Thomas (retd), who headed the Supreme Court bench that sentenced A G Perarivalan to death in 1999, said Wednesday he wants to meet the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict and wished him to lead a normal life.

Justice Thomas’s comments came soon after the top court ordered the release of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict Perarivalan, exercising its powers under the Constitution’s Article 142, which enables the court to pass orders to do complete justice in a case.

“I wish to see him,” said Justice Thomas after hearing the news of Perarivalan’s release in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. “Perarivalan, if you find time, please visit me…” Thomas said while speaking to The Indian Express from his residence at Kottayam, Kerala. “After the long incarceration and the release at the age of 50, what should I tell him? He should get married soon… He should live happily… with his dear ones. And I give complete credit to his mother (Arputham Ammal). She deserves the entire credit,” he said.

Perarivalan was accused of buying the two 9-volt ‘Golden Power’ battery cells—used in the bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991—for Sivarasan, the LTTE man who masterminded the conspiracy. He was 19 when he was arrested on June 11 that year.

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Raising the issue of ‘double jeopardy’ in the case in 2013, Thomas said hanging the convicts after 23 years would be unconstitutional. It had led to the SC order commuting the death sentences of three convicts in 2014. “This appears to be a third type of sentence, something which is unheard and constitutionally incorrect. If they are hanged today or tomorrow, they will be subjected to two penalties for one offence,” he had said then.

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Justice Thomas had pleaded with Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi to show magnanimity, and called the Tamil Nadu governor’s decision to pass the buck to the President “unheard and unconstitutional”. He had also cited the Centre’s decision in 1964 to set free Gopal Godse, the brother of Nathuram Godse who was charged with conspiracy in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, after 14 years of imprisonment.

Thomas said he is still wondering why the Tamil Nadu governor ignored the state cabinet’s recommendation to release them for so many years. “When the governor is to function as per the advice of the state government, why did he ignore that? How many years delayed…” he said.

Even as the life sentence is meant for the entire life, Thomas said, the Constitution of India allows remission. In the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, he again said, Gopal Godse was granted remission after 14 years and all other convicts in life sentences were also released along with him. “And look at his life after the release, he authored books. If Mahatma Gandhi’s assassins can be released and allowed to live a reformed life, why not Rajiv Gandhi case convicts?” asked Thomas.

He said the SC verdict in the Perarivalan case should also be applicable to the other six convicts as well. “They should move SC. If they should be retained in prisons, the prison advisory committee should give adverse reports against them. There were no such reports against them in my knowledge,” he said.

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First published on: 18-05-2022 at 01:23:52 pm
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