Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has taken the stand that it is for President Ram Nath Kovind to decide whether seven convicts, including AG Perarivalan, undergoing life imprisonment for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, should be released early, PTI reported. The Ministry of Home Affairs made the submission in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

“Governor of Tamil Nadu considered all the facts on record and after perusal of the relevant documents, recorded that the Hon’ble President of India is the appropriate competent authority to deal with the said request,” the home ministry’s affidavit stated, according to NDTV.

The affidavit added that the proposal received by the central government will be processed in accordance with law. The Supreme Court will take up the case again next week.

In 2018, the Tamil Nadu government had recommended the premature release of all the seven convicts in the 1991 assassination case. The Cabinet’s decision needed a sign-off from the governor, with whom the matter had been pending since.

On January 21, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that Purohit will decide on the recommendation in the “next three to four days”. 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.

Meanwhile, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam criticised Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for the delay in the decision, reported the Hindustan Times. “There will be a solution only if [DMK President MK] Stalin becomes the chief minister,” the party’s leader RS Bharathy said. “These people [AIADMK] are not courageous.”

The case

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991, when an operative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam named Gayatri set off an RDX-laden belt she wore under her belt. The LTTE was seeking revenge for the Indian government’s decision to send troops to Sri Lanka to help the island-country fight the Tamil separatists.

In 1999, 26 people were sentenced to death for the conspiracy, but a year later the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of only four of them – Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. Three others were sentenced to life imprisonment and the remaining 19 were freed. In 2000, Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment 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. 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. But the governor had not acted on the recommendation.