New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday extended by a week the parole of A G Perarivalan, serving life sentence in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, for undergoing medical check up. A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi also directed the Tamil Nadu government to provide police escort to Perarivalan during his visit to doctors in a hospital.
The parole, granted to the convict by the Madras High Court, was ending on Monday and now stands extended by one more week. In a hearing conducted via video conferencing, the bench said the issue of grant of remission would be now dealt by it in January when it will finally dispose of the case.
The court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to address it on all the issues raised in the petition on the next date of hearing. The CBI, in its affidavit of November 20, has told the apex court that the Tamil Nadu Governor has to take a call on grant of remission to Perarivalan.
The CBI said 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. The top court is hearing the plea of 46-year-old Perarivalan seeking suspension of his life sentence in the case till the MDMA probe is completed.
On November 3, the top court had expressed unhappiness over the pendency of a plea by a convict seeking pardon in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case for over two years with the Tamil Nadu Governor. The CBI, in its 24-page affidavit, 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.
"Present petitioner is not the subject matter of the further investigation carried out by MDMA. The further investigation conducted by MDMA is only limited to the mandate provided to it by the Jain Commission Report it said, adding that a progress report by MDMA on further investigation and its status is submitted to the designated court in Chennai. The Jain commission of inquiry in the assassination of the former prime minister has recommended a probe into larger conspiracy by MDMA and it required monitoring/tracking of absconding suspects and the role of Sri Lankan and Indian nationals in the case.
The probe agency further said that the top court had already on March 14, 2018, dismissed an application by Perarivalan for recall of the May 11, 1999 verdict of the top court, holding him guilty in the case. It said, The claim of the petitioner that he is innocent and did not have knowledge about the conspiracy to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi is neither acceptable nor maintainable.
The top court had earlier asked the counsel for petitioner, A G Perarivalan, whether the court can exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution to request the Governor to decide his plea of pardon filed under Article 161. Article 161 empowers a Governor to pardon a convict in any criminal case.
The top court had said, We don't want to exercise our jurisdiction at this stage but we are not happy that a recommendation made by the government is pending for two years. 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.
The MDMA was set up in 1998 on the recommendations of the Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry which had probed the conspiracy aspect of Gandhi's assassination. 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. It had said the material brought on record before it does not inspire confidence to interfere with the verdict in which Perarivalan and three others were initially awarded the death sentence, which was later commuted to life term.
Perarivalan's counsel had earlier said that he was just 19 years old when the incident took place and had no knowledge of what he was doing and for what purpose the batteries were purchased. 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. Gandhi's assassination was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile leader. 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 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.