The centre made it clear in a counter-affidavit filed in the court on Nalini’s habeas corpus petition.

TN Governor has full liberty to decide on Perarivalans mercy plea CentreFile image/PTI
news Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Friday, February 07, 2020 - 14:58

The Government of India, on Friday, told the Madras High Court that the Tamil Nadu Governor is at full liberty to decide on the mercy petition filed by AG Perarivalan, one of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case.

Responding to a petition filed by Nalini, another convicts in the case, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs also stated that the plea by the government of Tamil Nadu to release the seven persons convicted in the case has already been rejected by the central government.

“...The Ministry of Home Affairs has already rejected the proposal of the Tamil Nadu government under Section 453 of the CrPC for the release of the above named 7 convicts in the case. The mercy petition is pending with the Hon’ble Governor of Tamil Nadu, Governor is a Constitutional functionary and he has discretion to decide on the petition under the powers conferred upon him by the Constitution of India,” reads the counter affidavit filed by the MHA.

In December, one of the convicts Nalini had filed a Habeas Corpus petition in the Madras High Court stating that she was being illegally confined (or detained) and seeking her release. The case is being heard by a bench headed by Justice R Subbiah. In her plea, Nalini had also mentioned the inaction by the Governor of Tamil Nadu on the resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu government recommending the release of all the seven convicts in the case -- Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Ravichandran, Robert Payas and Nalini.

Speaking to TNM about MHA’s stance, Siva, Perarivalan’s advocate said, “Under Article 161, the Governor has the power to act on the state government’s recommendation. That is what the MHA has also said now in the court,” he said. Pointing out the difference between Perarivalan’s case and Nalini’s petition and the way the centre has responded to both, Siva said, “Nalini had accused the police of illegally confining her and has asked for her to be produced in the court and released. The centre has flagged it as non-maintainable. But in Perarivalan’s case, the request itself was to urge the Governor to decide on a resolution that is pending with him for over a year now. Rightfully, the centre has put the onus again on the Governor himself.”

In 2017, V Thiagarajan, former CBI Officer who was a part of the team that investigated Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination told the court that he had omitted a crucial part of Perarivalan’s statement. In an affidavit, Thiagarajan, who had recorded the then 19-year-old Perarivalan’s confession, stated that he had failed to record that Perarivalan was unaware of the purpose of the two nine volt batteries he was asked to buy. Thiagarajan also stated that in the investigation after the confession, it was found that Perarivalan did not know the purpose of the batteries he was asked to buy. Perarivalan was sentenced to death after being convicted in the case, but his sentence was remitted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court in 2014. Expressing remorse Perarivalan losing two decades of his life, languishing in prison, Thiagarajan also said that he came out with his statement to clear his conscience.

The government of Tamil Nadu had initially proposed to the central government to release the convicts, which was rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs in April 2018 citing section 453 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Following this, the government of Tamil Nadu passed an assembly resolution recommending the governor to take action in the case under Article 161 [Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases ] of the Constitution of India. Action is still pending from the side of the governor on the resolution. 

The next hearing in the case will be on February 12. 

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