SC grants bail to Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict A G Perarivalan

The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict A G Perarivalan. The top court had been mulling if it should give bail to Perarivalan as the Governor is yet to decide on his plea seeking release from prison.

A bench presided by Justice L Nageswara Rao said “Since he has already undergone sentence for more than 30 years, we are of the considered view that he is entitled to bail in spite of the vehement opposition by Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj”.

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The bench, also comprising Justice B R Gavai, noted that there is is no dispute about Perarivalan having undergone 32 years of imprisonment and that the court was informed he was released on parole twice earlier and there has been no complaints.

Perarivalan had said that the Governor was yet to take a decision on his prayer for remission and that the delay was a ground for bail.

Opposing his plea, the Centre had stated that the President was the appropriate authority to decide Perarivalan’s request. “In case of offences to which the executive power of the Union extends, it is the Centre which is entitled to decide on plea for release,” it said. It also argued that Perarivalan had already availed the benefit of reduction of death sentence to life term by citing a delay in deciding his mercy plea and that he cannot claim more benefit by citing another delay.

On this, the Supreme Court said, “In view of the stand taken by the Union of India that the state government does not have the power to entertain the application especially after the sentence of death imposed on the has been reduced to life, the matter will have to be decided finally”. It further said that “sufficient material has been produced by the applicant to prove his conduct during the long incarceration, acquisition of degrees and ill health.”

Perarivalan (extreme left) Murugan (extreme right) Santhan (2nd from right), along with Jayakumar, robert Paes and Ravichandra, in Vellore Cengtral Prison for Men. (Express archive photo)

Arrested at the age of 19 in the case, Perarivalan was sentenced to death in May 1999. He was accused of purchasing the 9-volt battery used to trigger the belt bomb that killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In 2014, his sentence and that of two others, Murugan and Santhan (both Sri Lankans), was commuted to life over the long pendency of their mercy petitions. Soon after, the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu had ordered the release of all the seven convicts in the case.

While a pardon request moved by Perarivalan in 2015 was not considered by the Governor, a Supreme Court order on a related petition in September 2018 clarified that the Governor was “deemed fit” to decide on the pardon. Within three days, the AIADMK government had recommended that all seven convicts be released.

The Tamil Nadu government had on September 9, 2018, made a recommendation to the state Governor for the premature release of Perarivalan and six other convicts in the case.

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