The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to AG Perarivalan, a convict in the case related to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Bar and Bench reported.

“Taking note of the fact that Perarivalan has spent more than 30 years in jail, we are of the view that he is entitled to be released on bail,” a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai said in the order. The judges also noted that there had been no complaints about Perarivalan’s conduct when he was released on parole on three occasions.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Perarivalan seeking suspension of his life sentence till an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation-led Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency is completed.

The case

Gandhi was killed on May 21, 1991, at an election rally at Sriperumbudur town of Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber identified as Dhanu.

In 1999, 26 people were sentenced to death for planning the assassination. But later that year, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of only four of them – Perarivalan, Nalini, Murugan, Santhan.

However, the death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment in April 2000 for Nalini and in February 2014 for Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan.

In 2016, the Tamil Nadu government had written to the Centre that the life sentences of the four convicts be remitted. This came after the convicts had asked that their life sentences be suspended till the Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency, which was separately investigating the assassination, completes its inquiry.

The decision on whether to suspend the life sentences has since been pending as the Centre and Tamil Nadu governor have had a difference of opinion on who was the competent authority on the matter. The Supreme Court had in 2020 expressed displeasure over the delay

At Wednesday’s hearing, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the Centre opposed the remission of the life sentence.

“Imprisonment is till life...He was a death row convict,” Nataraj told the court, according to Bar and Bench. “When remission has been given subject to life then how can it be reduced again?”

The court then said that it would grant bail to Perarivalan “subject to remission” of the life sentence. The Centre opposed the bail order as well. But the judges observed that Perarivalan had been in jail for more than 30 years. They also took into consideration his poor health, Live Law reported.