The Madras High Court on Wednesday observed that Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit cannot continue to hold back on his decision regarding the release of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The court stated that the recommendation made by the state government must either be rejected or accepted by the Governor.
The court said this when a request for parole for one of the convicts, Perarivalan, came before the bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice VM Velumani. "Perarivalan is very ill and has high blood pressure. We want him to be able to stay at home during the pandemic, in order to avoid infections," said his lawyer, Advocate Sivakumar. During the parole hearing, the court raised questions regarding the state government's recommendation.
The Tamil Nadu government had recommended the release of the seven convicts who have been given life sentences, in September 2018. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami called for a cabinet meeting to discuss the release of Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhan, Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran and it was unanimously agreed that they could be granted freedom given that they had spent over 30 years in prison. The release was recommended under Article 161 (power of Governor to suspend or pardon sentences) of the Constitution.
The Raj Bhavan, however, just maintained that the case is complex and that it involves an examination of legal, administrative and constitutional views. And since then, there has been no decision taken by the Governor.
The Centre, meanwhile, in January this year, stated that it had no intention of allowing the prisoners to walk free.
"Any leniency towards the seven, who had involvement in the death of 15 persons including former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, would set a bad precedent, and embolden other accused in similar heinous crimes to plead for early release," said Additional Solicitor General R Rajagopalan, who was representing the BJP government.
Advocate Sivakumar, Perarivalan's lawyer, said, â€œThe Madras HC bench pointed that it must either be accepted or rejected by the Governor and the state government and governor's office have been asked to respond regarding this on July 29," said.
The court further pointed out that no time limit was set for the Governor to make such a decision purely based on faith and trust attached to constitutional posts. The bench further added that if a decision was not taken within a reasonable amount of time, then the court would have to intervene.
"Our hope now is that this decision at least leads to parole," said advocate Sivakumar.