Updated: December 7, 2021 7:54:44 pm
The Supreme Court will hear in January a plea by A G Perarivalan — one of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case — seeking release from prison.
A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao, which took up the matter Tuesday, adjourned it by a month after Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta sought time to receive instructions.
The Tamil Nadu government had on September 9, 2018, made a recommendation to the state Governor for the premature release of Perarivalan and six other convicts in the case.
In his plea before the Supreme Court, Perarivalan said he, too, had applied to the Governor for remission. But the Governor had not taken a decision either on his request or the state cabinet recommendation, he said.
The S-G had told the apex court on January 21 this year that the Governor would take a decision “as per the Constitution within the next 3-4 days”.
On February 4, Mehta had informed the court that the Governor, after considering all facts on record and perusing all relevant documents, had recorded that the “President is the appropriate competent authority to deal with the…request” and that “the proposal received by the Central government will be processed in accordance with law”.
On Tuesday, as the S-G sought more time, the bench also comprising Justices B R Gavai and B V Nagarathna pointed out that he had on the last date of hearing said that a decision would be taken and sent to the appropriate authority.
“On the ground of immunity, we cannot ask the Governor to not pass any order,” it said. Allowing the Centre’s request for time, the bench added: “You take instructions, but we cannot grant more adjournment.”
Appearing for Perarivalan, Senior Advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan told the bench that his client had already spent 30 years in jail and that the Governor’s decision must be placed on record.
Arrested at the age of 19 in the case, Perarivalan was sentenced to death in May 1999. He was accused of purchasing the 8-volt battery used to trigger the belt bomb that killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In 2014, his sentence and that of two others, Murugan and Santhan (both Sri Lankans), was commuted to life over the long pendency of their mercy petitions. Soon after, the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu had ordered the release of all the seven convicts in the case.
While a pardon request moved by Perarivalan in 2015 was not considered by the Governor, a Supreme Court order on a related petition in September 2018 clarified that the Governor was “deemed fit” to decide on the pardon. Within three days, the AIADMK government had recommended that all seven convicts be released.
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