The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told the Supreme Court that the Tamil Nadu governor has to take a call on the grant of remission to Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict AG Perarivalan, who is serving life sentence in the case. In its affidavit filed on November 20, the CBI 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 larger conspiracy aspect as per the mandate of Jain Commission report.
The top court is hearing a 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 a 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. On January 21, the apex court had asked the state government to inform whether a decision has been taken by it on a pardon petition of a convict 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.
On March 14 last year, the apex court had asked the MDMA to file a status report with regard to a LRs sent to Sri Lanka for examining one of the accused, Nixon alias Suren, who is lodged in a Colombo jail. 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. The CBI had earlier submitted that Perarivalan had even visited Jaffna in Sri Lanka in the first week of June 1990, besides attending a public meeting along with other conspirators which was addressed by former Prime Minister V P Singh on May 7, 1991 in Tamil Nadu.
Perarivalan's counsel had submitted 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 the assassination case. 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.