June 1, 2021 2:49:41 am
DAYS after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin wrote to the President seeking implementation of a recommendation to immediately release the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, A G Perarivalan has moved a petition in the apex court for interim bail.
The seven have been waiting for a decision since 2018, when the state government first recommended their release. The seven had been convicted in May 1999.
Perarivalan’s petition to the Supreme Court says the stalemate “is completely political and the only place for the petitioner to anticipate for justice is Your Lordships’ benevolence”. Perarivalan, who was convicted for buying a battery used in the explosive to kill Gandhi, and was convicted when he was 19, adds, “As this case is viewed by the authorities more politically than legally, the petitioner and his parents have already faced many rounds of litigation in the quest to get the petitioner an ordinary free life in society.”
Four months ago, the apex court had called the long delay on the part of the Tamil Nadu Governor in deciding the release of Perarivalan as “extraordinary”, and said it might be forced to take a decision on the matter. Consequently, Governor Banwarilal Purohit, rather than taking a decision, had referred the matter to the President. In November 2020, the Centre told the Supreme Court it had no say in the issue.
It was following a petition for pardon by Perarivalan in 2015 — which had been left by the Supreme Court to the Governor to decide — that in 2018, the then state government (led by the AIADMK) first recommended that the seven convicts be released.
A convict filing for interim bail after having served so long in jail might be unusual but Justice (retd) K T Thomas, who headed the Supreme Court Bench that delivered the final verdict in the case in 1999, said Perarivalan had been left with little choice. The long delay, he said, was “a denial of justice… a criminal denial of justice”. “Either you deny it or accept it. I see it (the delay) as a violation of Article 21,” Justice Thomas said, hoping that at least the judiciary will close the chapter now.
In his letter to Kovind on May 20, Stalin urged the President to accept the state’s recommendation and release the seven convicts immediately. ” These seven persons have already suffered untold hardship and agony in the past three decades and have paid a heavy price… There has already been an inordinate delay in the consideration of their pleas for remission. In the present circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, courts are also recognising the need to decongest prisons,” his letter said.
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