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President Competent Authority to Decide Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Convict's Pardon, Centre Tells SC

File photo of the Supreme Court.

File photo of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had earlier asked the Governor to expedite his decision on the remission plea that has been pending for more than two years.

The President of India is the competent authority to deal with the plea seeking pardon and release submitted by AG Perarivalan, a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Supreme Court in an affidavit of the Governor's opinion. "Governor of Tamil Nadu considered all the facts on record and after perusal of relevant documents recorded that President of India is the appropriate competent authority" to deal with said request (for pardon)," the Central government said in its affidavit filed on Thursday.

The Supreme Court had earlier asked the Governor to expedite his decision on the remission plea that has been pending for more than two years.

Perarivalan had requested for pardon on December 30, 2015. In 218, the Supreme Court had asked the Governor to decide on the plea, and days later the state cabinet had recommended that the Governor remit the convict's sentence, but he is yet to make a decision.

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The Supreme Court had had in 2014 commuted Perarivalan's death sentence to life imprisonment on grounds of a 11 year delay in deciding the mercy pleas by the Centre.

The state government had earlier told the top court that the Cabinet has already passed a resolution on September 9, 2018 and recommended to the Governor for the premature release of all seven convicts in the case. Besides Perarivalan, other six convicts sentenced to life imprisonment include Nalini Sriharan, her husband Murugan, Santhan, Jayakumar, Ravichandran and Robert Pyas.

All the seven were convicted by a special TADA court for their role in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 during an election rally at nearby Sriperumbudur and sentenced to death,but later it was commuted to life imprisonment. Earlier, on November 27 last year the top court had extended by one week the parole of Perarivalan and directed the state to provide escort to him while visiting the doctor. Perarivalan was first granted parole from November 9-23, last year by the Madras High Court on medical grounds, which was extended by the top court after he had submitted that he has 25 per cent blockage in kidney and needs surgical intervention.

The CBI, in its affidavit of November 20, last year had told the apex court that the Governor has to take a call on grant of remission to Perarivalan. The probe agency has said that Perarivalan is not the subject matter of further investigation carried out by the CBI-led Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) which is conducting a probe on the aspect of larger conspiracy as per the mandate of the Jain Commission report.

On November 3, last year the top court had expressed unhappiness over the pendency of a plea by a convict seeking pardon in the case for over two years with the Tamil Nadu Governor. The CBI, in its 24-page affidavit, had said, It is for the His Excellency Governor of Tamil Nadu to take a call on the issue whether remission is to be granted or not and in so far as relief is concerned in the present matter CBI has no role.

Perarivalan's counsel had earlier said his role was only limited to procuring nine-volt batteries, which were allegedly, used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that had killed Gandhi. The top court had earlier dismissed a plea of Perarivalan seeking recall of the May 11, 1999 verdict upholding his conviction, saying the material brought on record does not inspire confidence to interfere with the verdict in which he and three others were initially awarded the death sentence, later commuted to life term.

Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at a poll rally. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed. In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts -- Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and Nalini.

In April 2000, the then Tamil Nadu Governor had commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the basis of the state government's recommendation and an appeal by former Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia Gandhi. On February 18, 2014, the top court had commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment, along with that of two other prisoners -- Santhan and Murugan -- on the grounds of an 11-year delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.

(With PTI inputs)

first published:February 04, 2021, 22:55 IST