n September 2018, the Court directed the governor to decide the pardon plea as he “deemed fit”. Within three days, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet recommended to the Governor to release all the seven convicts.
Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A G Perarivalan overcame a major hurdle in his legal fight for remission of his sentence on Friday, with the Centre telling the Supreme Court that the CBI has nothing to do with his petition and that it was an issue between the petitioner and the office of the Tamil Nadu Governor.
Saying that the Governor can “take a call on the issue whether remission is to be granted or not”, the Centre said, “In so far as relief is concerned in the present matter, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has no role.”
Earlier this month, the state had told the Supreme Court that Governor Banwarilal Purohit was awaiting legal consultation before giving assent to a recommendation by the Tamil Nadu government in 2018 to release all the seven convicts serving life term in the 1991 killing, including Perarivalan.
It was in December 2015 that Perarivalan first applied for pardon to the then governor. When no action was taken, a plea was filed on his behalf by his mother in the apex court. In September 2018, the Court directed the governor to decide the pardon plea as he “deemed fit”. Within three days, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet recommended to the Governor to release all the seven convicts.
However, the Governor has since sat on the recommendation, despite it being asserted twice in the Cabinet in the past two years. All political parties in the state, which goes to polls soon, had welcomed the order recommending the release of the seven, with the issue having much resonance in the state.
Earlier this month, Perarivalan’s case came up before the Supreme Court again, with the petition pointing out that Governor Purohit was yet to take a decision on the matter. The Court frowned upon the Centre’s submission that the probe by a CBI-led Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency into the assassination was still on, noting that the investigation was about the “larger conspiracy”. “It is not for them [people already convicted].” It also pulled up the CBI for failing to make any significant progress in its investigation.
While constitutionally, the Governor cannot reject a Cabinet decision, the statute does not prescribe a time limit for disposal of a mercy petition by either the Governor or President.
Prabu Ramasubramanium, Perarivalan’s counsel in the Supreme Court, told The Sunday Express that they wanted to bring to the Court’s attention the long delay on the part of the Governor. “Perarivalan has overcome a major hurdle (on Friday),” he said.
Perarivalan was 19 when he was arrested in June 1991 for the killing. He was accused of having bought two battery cells for Sivarasan, the LTTE member who masterminded the assassination. Perarivalan was on death row for 23 years until the Supreme Court commuted his death sentence along with two other convicts, Murugan and Santhan, to life, in February 2014.
In 2017, Perarivalan came home for the first time since his arrest on parole.
Incidentally, in November 2013, V Thiagarajan, a retired CBI SP, revealed that he had altered Perarivalan’s statement in custody to “qualify it as a confession statement”. Even though Thiagarajan submitted the same before the Supreme Court, the statement was never revisited.
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