"If you won't release my son, euthanise him," cries Apruthammal, the mother of AG Perarivalan. who is a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The 70-year-old who maintains that her son is innocent 27 years after was arrested, is struggling to grapple with the latest development in connection with his release.
President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected the Tamil Nadu government's plea to free the seven prisoners convicted in the case, leaving their legal counsel flummoxed. According to The Hindu, the President has conveyed to the government that the 'Centre doesnâ€™t concur with its view' to release the prisoners. He is reportedly bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers in such matters.
On January 23, the Supreme Court gave the Home Ministry three months to decide on Tamil Naduâ€™s proposal to remit the sentences of the life-term convicts. The Centre had moved court against the Stateâ€™s proposal to cut short their sentences as they had already served more than 20 years in prison.
Following this, on February 14, the MHA sought details on eight grounds from the State to look into its request to release the convicts.
"We were waiting for the Centre's reply after they took the details. But instead we are hearing from the President," says Arputhammal.
Under Section 435 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Centre has to be consulted by a state looking to release prisoners who were tried by the CBI or under a central legislation.
"Why is the President even getting involved in this? Isn't his duty only to look into mercy petitions? We are going as per the law. Why is the Centre doing this? This is clearly a political move. Let them clearly say that they do not want to free my son and then kill us both. He and I are only living to see the day he gets freed," she says.
Perarivalan's legal team meanwhile is waiting for formal communication from the Centre on the matter. "The only way the matter could have gone to the President is if a Central Ministry passed it on to him," says advocate K Sivakumar. "When even Rajiv Gandhi's son Rahul Gandhi has said he has forgiven the convicts, why is the government not willing to release them?" he asks.
The reason offered reportedly was that, "The President has rejected the Tamil Nadu governmentâ€™s plea to free the prisoners on the advice of the Home Ministry. This has been conveyed to the State. The assassins of the former Prime Minister of India cannot walk free under any circumstances."
But even if that was the case, the advocate argues that the investigation into the case is still hanging. "They still haven't found out details of the belt bomb that was used for the assassination. This is despite Perarivalan filing a case in the matter," he says.
In addition to this, the investigating official, who recorded Perarivalan's confession admitted to the Supreme Court that he omitted a crucial part of the then 19-year-old's statement.
Former CBI officer V Thiagarajan had earlier told TNM that Perarivalan had said that he was unaware of the purpose of the two nine-volt batteries he was asked to buy. But the officer had failed to include it in his confession, as he assumed it would cast a shadow on the case or could have been a lie.