Hours after Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to post a picture of himself with director Pa Ranjith, reports flew thick and fast over how the duo had discussed the release of Perarivalan, a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Pa Ranjith confirmed to TNM that he had asked Rahul Gandhi about Perarivalan.
Speaking to TNM, Pa Ranjith said, "We had a two hour meeting where we discussed cinema and art and the politics of art. At the end of the discussion, I asked him about Perarivalan's release. Rahul Gandhi told me that neither he nor his family will be an obstacle for the release of Perarivalan."
The Tamil Nadu government has been trying to secure the release of Perarivalan for years. In June this year, President Ram Nath Kovind had rejected the Tamil Nadu government's plea to free the seven prisoners convicted in the case, leaving their legal counsel flummoxed.
The President has conveyed to the government that the 'Centre doesn’t concur with its view' to release the prisoners. He is bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers in such matters. The statement by Rahul Gandhi, expressing no objection to the release of his father's killers, comes months after he said that he and his sister had forgiven the assassins.
Speaking at an event in Kuala Lumpur in March this year, Rahul Gandhi said of him and his sister, "We were very upset and hurt and for many years, we were quite angry. But, somehow, completely...in fact, completely (forgiven).”
The primary charge against Perarivalan involved him providing a nine-volt battery for a belt bomb to fellow assassin Sivarasan. Former CBI officer V Thiagarajan who had been part of the team that investigated Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination 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.
The Tamil Nadu government had written to the Centre earlier, expressing its intent to release the seven convicts- Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhan, Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran – all serving life terms for assassinating former Prime Minister Gandhi in 1991.
Speaking to media persons on Wednesday, Tamil Nadu Minister for Information and Publicity Kadambur Raju said that the state government was steadfast in its resolve to secure a release for the seven convicts including Perarivalan.
On January 23, the Supreme Court gave the Home Ministry three months to decide on Tamil Nadu’s proposal to remit the sentences of the life-term convicts. The Centre had moved court against the State’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. 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.
(With inputs from Sowmya Rajendran)