The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Tamil Nadu governor to consider the mercy petition of AG Perarivalan, who is among the seven people convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, PTI reported. On August 10, the Centre had told the top court that it was against the Tamil Nadu government’s petition to release the convicts.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Naveen Sinha and KM Joseph disposed of the Centre’s petition on the matter. The Centre had said their release will set a “dangerous precedent” and have “international ramifications”.

In June, President Ram Nath Kovind had rejected the Tamil Nadu government’s request to release the seven prisoners. Apart from Perarivalan, the other convicts are V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Ravichandran and Nalini.

On August 20, Perarivalan, 47, wrote to the court that no decision had been taken on his mercy petition to the Tamil Nadu governor filed in December 2015. Perarivalan said he had endured more than 24 years of solitary/single confinement. “As per jail rules, life imprisonment at ground level is only for a maximum of 20 years and thereafter the prisoner is considered for release,” his letter said. “Now I have already undergone more than life imprisonment.”

He was charged with supplying a 9-volt battery allegedly used in the bomb that killed Gandhi and 14 others. Perarivalan had also claimed that the investigation into the matter was flawed and that the makers of the bomb were never apprehended. “There will be no justification in keeping me behind bars even after 25 years of actual punishment when the investigation is itself pending,” Perarivalan had argued.

The Centre’s role

The Union government said the Central Bureau of Investigation, which inquired into the case, has opposed the convicts’ release. The Centre told the court that it had informed the Tamil Nadu government about its decision on April 18.

In the last four years, the Tamil Nadu government has written twice to the Centre, seeking pardon for the convicts and their release as they have already spent 27 years in prison. Perarivalan’s mother has demanded euthanasia for her son, claiming he is “slowly dying in prison”.

In 2015, a Supreme Court Constitution bench said the Central government’s approval was necessary for their release. In June, the Centre told the top court that releasing four foreign nationals convicted in the case “will set a very dangerous precedent and lead to international ramifications”.

Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber.