Updated: January 22, 2021 7:40:11 am
A CALL on the Tamil Nadu government’s recommendation to pardon Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict A G Perarivalan will be taken by the Governor within three-four days, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court Thursday.
Mehta told a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra, hearing a plea by Perarivalan seeking release, that he had received an instruction to communicate that Governor Banwarilal Purohit will decide the matter “as per the Constitution” in a couple of days. Recording the submission, the bench adjourned the matter by four weeks.
In his plea, Perarivalan had said the Governor was yet to take a call on a recommendation by the state government on September 9, 2018, to grant him remission and release him forthwith. Hearing the matter in November last year, the Supreme Court had made clear its unhappiness over the pendency of the request for over two years.
It had asked Perarivalan’s counsel Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan if it could exercise powers under Article 142 of the Constitution — which allows the Supreme Court to pass any order necessary to do “complete justice” in any case — to request the Governor to decide on the matter. “You please tell us what… the Court can do in such cases. Can we ask the Governor to do that, as has been done in earlier cases?” the bench said.
Sankaranarayanan said while the matter was the prerogative of the Governor, in several instances, the court had exercised powers under Article 142. The bench had then said, “We don’t want to exercise our jurisdiction at this stage but we are not happy that a recommendation made by the government is pending for two years.”
While informing the court about Tamil Nadu’s decision of September 2018 recommending release of all seven convicts in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Advocate Balaji Srinivasan, representing the state, had argued that the matter involved a “larger conspiracy” and said the Governor was awaiting a report from the CBI.
However, Justice Rao had said to this that the “larger conspiracy” only dealt with whether other people were involved and not with those already convicted and in prison. The bench had also noted that the “larger conspiracy” probe had been pending for years now.
Arrested at the age of 19 in the case, Perarivalan had been sentenced to death in May 1999 on the charge of purchasing an 8-volt battery used by the assassins to trigger the belt bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi. In 2014, his sentence and that of two others, Murugan and Santhan (both Sri Lankans), was commuted to life. 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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