Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit will decide in the next three to four days on the state government’s recommendation to release seven convicts, including AG Perarivalan, undergoing life imprisonment for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Centre informed Supreme Court on Thursday, reported PTI.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra were hearing a plea filed by Perarivalan, seeking suspension of his life sentence. On Wednesday, Rao had termed the delay in governor’s decision as “extraordinary”, as it was pending despite the recommendation, which was given in 2018, The Hindu reported.
During Thursday’s hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that although Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj was appearing for Centre on the matter, he had received instructions to inform the court about the governor’s impending decision, PTI reported. Mehta’s submission was significant as on Wednesday, Nataraj had argued that the pleas for pardon and release should go to the president instead of the governor.
However, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for Perarivalan, had earlier argued that the convict was free to choose between the two.
Following Mehta’s submission, the court on Thursday asked Sankaranarayanan whether the arrangement was acceptable to him or not. To this, the senior advocate said that it was good that a competent authority is taking the decision. But he requested the court to keep the plea pending in case the decision is not acceptable to them, PTI reported.
The court then posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
Case against Perarivalan
Perarivalan was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in May 1999 along with three other convicts - Murugan, Santham and Nalini - for Gandhi’s assassination in 1991.
However, the death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment in April 2000 for Nalini and in February 2014 for Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan.
Meanwhile, in March 2016, the Tamil Nadu government wrote to the Centre proposing the remission of the four aforementioned convicts, along with three others - Jayakumar, Ravichandran and Robert Pyas. The convicts had asked for suspension of their life sentences till another inquiry in the case by the Central Bureau of Investigation-led Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency was completed.
The Centre, however, rejected the state’s proposal, saying this was an unparalleled act in the annals of crimes committed in this country, according to The Hindu. On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court asked Tamil Nadu governor to decide the pardon plea as he “deemed fit”. Three days after the court order, on September 9, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet made the recommendation to the governor to release the prisoners. The governor’s decision on the matter is pending since then.