It has now come to light that Balaji Srinivasan, the counsel for the Tamil Nadu Government in the Supreme Court in the AG Perarivalan’s parole case, had provided incorrect information during his recent arguments at the apex court. Perarivalan alias Arivu, a convict in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case has been lodged in prison for more than 29 years. Previously he was granted parole only twice during this long period, in 2017 and in 2019. Perarivalan’s third parole was initially granted by the Madras High Court for 30 days from October 9 to November 9 for his medical treatment and was extended by two weeks on the same grounds.
Perarivalan’s case for premature release citing the Tamil Nadu Governor’s delay came before the Supreme Court on November 23. The Union government later said it needed time to present a reasonable defense. The SC then adjourned the case’s last hearing to January 19 and granted an additional week of parole to Perarivalan.
Mistake No: 1
On November 27, 2020, Perarivalan filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking parole extension for 90 days under medical grounds. The Tamil Nadu government’s counsel Balaji Srinivasan vehemently opposed the petition and argued as stated below in the SC order dated 27.11.2020 :
“He (Balaji Srinivasan) submits that CMC (Christian Medical College) Vellore is only 25 kilometers away from the jail in which the petitioner is lodged and in case of any medical necessity, the petitioner shall be taken to CMC Vellore.”
But the fact is, that Perarivalan is not lodged in Vellore prison and the Puzhal Central Prison, where he is lodged in, is 139 Kms away from CMC. It is shocking that a counsel appearing for the state government is ignorant about the whereabouts of the petitioner.
The counsel never mentioned the fact that Perarivalan wanted to get treated for his urological disorders at Villupuram. The chief doctor is the same one who first identified Perarivalan’s urological complications and coordinated his care from 2015, when he was a professor and head of the urological department of Madras Medical College, Chennai.
Moreover, there is no provision for a prisoner to go directly to a private hospital from the jail in which he is lodged. Due to this reason, Perarivalan was granted parole to undergo private medical treatment. Tamil Nadu Government counsel Balaji Srinivasan was not even aware of this fundamental fact when he had recommended CMC, Vellore which is a private hospital.
When counsel Balaji Srinivasan was asked about this, he told TNM, "In the judgement dated November 27, 2020 extending parole to Perarivalan, it is written that CMC is 25 kms from the jail in which the petitioner is lodged. But instead of 'jail', It should be corrected to 'his house'. As it was not a physical hearing, I could not correct it immediately".
But even that is incorrect. The distance between Vellore CMC and Perarivalan's house in Jolarpet is 85 kms.
Mistake No: 2
Previously on November 3, irritated by the delay of Governor Banwarilal Purohit in considering Perarivalan’s release, the apex court had asked advocate Balaji Srinivasan as to why the state government cannot pursue and request the Governor to take action on the pending petitions without the Supreme Court’s interference?
Balaji Srinavasan’s answer was that the TN Governor had sought a report from the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA). But on November 21, the CBI filed an affidavit in Supreme Court in which it had clearly stated that no such report of MDMA had been requested by the Tamil Nadu Governor so far. The affidavit clearly states:
“That it is submitted that the Central Bureau of Investigation has not received any request from the office of the Governor of Tamil Nadu to divulge the details/status of the investigation and the investigation details cannot be divulged as per the orders dated 17.06.1999 of the Honourable Designated Court no.1, the proceedings are held in-camera.”
When asked, Balaji Srinivasan responded, "When SC asked the reason for delay in signing the files before TN Governor, I replied that the 'Governor may require the final report of MDMA before signing." He also added that the state was not a party to the case.
Mistake No: 3
On November 23 while the Supreme Court was hearing the case of release for Perarivalan, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj appearing for the Union government, argued that the state government has no right to release the convicts under Article 161 (power of Governor to grant pardon) and that the Central Government under Article 72 (power of President to grant pardon) alone has such rights.
This is a surprise from KM Nataraj as the SC had clearly stated in many of its orders about the powers of Article 161. It is of importance to note that only after one such SC order in 2018, the Tamil Nadu cabinet headed by the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had passed a resolution to release the convicts, and the said resolutions were pending with the TN Governor for about two years now.
Justice Nageswara Rao interfered and said that such arguments are unnecessary in that particular context, as the matter was settled, and it had been declared that the state government has its own rights to release the convicts.
Even after Justice’s interference, KM Nataraj continued to argue that the Central government alone has such rights. Justice went on to read the 06.09.2018 judgement in which it had clearly stated that under Article 161, the state government can release the convicts.
During all these arguments and proceedings Tamil Nadu Government’s counsel Balaji Srinivasan remained silent. “We are not a party. The case is between Perarivalan and Union Government of India. So we don't have to interfere,” he told TNM.