It was in September 2018 that the Tamil Nadu government recommended the release of the seven convicts who have been given life sentences for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Though the release was recommended under Article 161 (Power of Governor to suspend or pardon sentences) of the Constitution, a few of the convicts like Perarivalan had applied for remission of their sentence even before that. It's been two years, but Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has not acted on these petitions, and has been unwilling to announce a decision. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court orally expressed its unhappiness over this delay caused by the Governor.
"We do not want to exercise jurisdiction. But we're not happy with how this recommendation has been pending before the Governor for 2 years," observed Justice Nageswara Rao, reported Livelaw. A bench comprising Justices Nageswara Rao, Ajay Rastogi and Hemant Gupta were hearing a petition filed by Perarivalan for his early release.
Senior Advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan informed the court about the delay, replying to which the court asked if there was a constitutional provision under which the court can direct the Governor to expedite. Justice Rao also referred to a judgment in 2014 where the Supreme Court had asked for time bound decisions on mercy petitions.
Meanwhile, the Government of India, which has opposed the remission, told the court that they were trying to prove the international conspiracy behind the assassination and were still waiting for replies from some foreign governments. The apex court then said that the so-called conspiracy involved people who had not already been imprisoned and the government is still waiting for replies though the assassination happened three decades ago.
Perarivalan was 19 years old when he was convicted for supplying the battery which was allegedly used in the belt bomb that had killed Rajiv Gandhi and 14 others. He filed his first mercy petition in 2015 to the then Governor under Article 161 of the constitution.
Unlike in the case of others, CBI officers have come forward many times to claim that the case against Perarivalan was wrong and he was wrongly indicted. Former CBI officer V Thiagarajan 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.
Perarivalan’s mother Arputhammal has been campaigning for his release for many years.