Rajiv Bloodshed: SC Expresses Sadness Over Pendency of Perarivalan’s condonation Plea

The life convict’s plea has been unfinished with the Tamil Nadu governor for over two years.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed unhappiness over the pendency of a plea by a convict seeking pardon within the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case for over two years with the Tamil Nadu governor.

The top court asked the counsel for petitioner A.G. Perarivalan, United Nations Agency is serving a life sentence, whether or not the court can exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the constitution to request the governor to choose his plea of pardon filed under Article 161, which empowers a governor to pardon a convict in any criminal case. 

A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, and Ajay Rastogi said, “We don’t wish to exercise our jurisdiction at this stage however we are not happy that recommendation made by the government is unfinished for two years.”

The bench was hearing a plea of the 46-year-old Perarivalan, United Nations Agency has sought suspension of his life sentence within the case until the CBI-led Multi-Disciplinary Observance Agency (MDMA) probe is completed.

During the hearing, the bench told senior advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan, representing Perarivalan, that the governor has got to act on the help and recommendation of the council of ministers. “But if the governor does not pass an order, what the court will do, you tell us.”

It asked Sankaranarayanan to apprise the court on to however it will request the governor to create a decision and what are the laws on the problems.

The top court then asked advocate Balaji Srinivasan, showing for Tamil Nadu, why the government cannot request the governor to pass an order without any specific order from the court. Srinivasan said that the governor had sought the report of the MDMA.

The bench then told ASG K.M. Nataraj, showing for the Centre, as to whether any request has been made by the state to send the report of MDMA.

He replied that the larger conspiracy probe goes on and therefore the investigation is spread over various countries like the UK and Sri Lanka. The bench told the ASG that the larger conspiracy theory is to find out if any other person, besides those condemned in the matter, is involved in this.

“It is not with regard to those who are condemned and are in jail. You look at it,” the bench told Nataraj, adding that the larger conspiracy probe is unfinished for almost 20 years.

It said that even after almost two decades of the probe in the larger conspiracy fascet, the Centre is saying that it is in the process of getting the response for Letter Rogatories (letters of request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance) sent to various countries.

“You (Nataraj) look at it and tell us,” the bench said while posting the matter for further hearing on November 23. The bench allowed the petitioner and the Union of India to file additional documents, if any, in the matter.

The state government had earlier told the highest court that the cabinet has already passed a resolution on September 9, 2018, and suggested to the governor for the premature release of all seven convicts in the case.

On January 21, the apex court had asked the state government to inform whether a decision has been taken by it on a pardon petition of a convict within the case.

The MDMA was discovered in 1998 on the recommendations of the Justice M.C. Jain Commission of Inquiry which had probed the conspiracy aspect of Gandhi’s assassination.

Perarivalan’s counsel had earlier said his role was solely restricted to procuring nine-volt batteries, which were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that had killed Gandhi. 

On March 14 last year, the apex court had asked the MDMA to file a standing report with relevancy to LRs sent to Sri Lanka for examining one of the accused, Nixon alias Suren, who is lodged in a Colombo jail.

The top court had earlier dismissed a plea of Perarivalan seeking recall of the May 11, 1999, verdict upholding his conviction. It had said the material brought on record before it does not inspire confidence to interfere with the verdict in which Perarivalan and three others were initially awarded death sentence, which was later commuted to life term.

The CBI had earlier submitted that Perarivalan had even visited Jaffna in Sri Lanka in the first week of June 1990, besides attending a public meeting along with different conspirators that were addressed by former Prime Minister V.P. Singh on May 7, 1991, in Tamil Nadu.

‘No knowledge’

Perarivalan’s counsel had submitted that he was simply a 19-year-old when the incident came about and had no information on what he was doing and for what purpose the batteries were purchased.

Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman terrorist, known as Dhanu, at a poll rally.

Fourteen others, together with Dhanu herself, were additionally killed. Gandhi’s assassination was maybe the primary case of the bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile leader. In its May 1999 order, the highest court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts – Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhanam, and Nalini – within the assassination case. 

In April 2000, the Tamil Nadu governor had commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the premise of the state government’s recommendation and an appeal by former Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi.

On February 18, 2014, the highest court had commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life incarceration, together with that of two different prisoners – Santhan and Murugan – on the grounds of an 11-year delay in choosing their mercy pleas by the Centre. 

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