No Relief For Perarivalan, TN Guv Says Prez Should Decide Release

The decision comes despite almost all political parties including the AIADMK and DMK asking for his release.

3 min read
 AG Perarivalan.

Nearly three decades since he was sent to prison, AG Perarivalan, a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, will have to wait for some more time for a decision on his early release. This comes after Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit stated that the President of India should take a call on his release.

The Ministry of Home Affairs made a submission in the Supreme Court on Thursday and informed the court that the President has decided that he is the appropriate authority to decide on the matter.

“That, His Excellency the 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 for remittance matter vide his order dated 25.01.2021. The proposal received by the Central Government will be processed in accordance with law,” states the Ministry of Home Affairs submission.

The effort to grant remission to the convicts has been drawn out for years, becoming political at every turn. But it was only more recently, after former CBI officer Thiagarajan admitted that he had omitted a crucial part of Perarivalan’s confessional statement that the movement to free the convicts gained momentum.

It was on the back of this admission and based on a petition filed by Perarivalan, also known as Arivu, that the Supreme Court came down hard on the Governor for his ‘extraordinary delay’ in making a decision to grant remission to all seven convicts.

The Governor’s decision comes despite almost all political parties including the AIADMK and DMK asking for the release of Perarivalan and six others.

The Supreme Court’s deadline given to the Governor to make a decision on Periravalan’s mercy plea ended last Friday. While the apex court had only recorded Periravalan’s mercy plea, it was up to the Governor to decide about the other convicts.

Among the convicts, Nalini Murugan and AG Perarivalan have submitted multiple requests with the state government, the Governor and the courts seeking mercy and remission of their sentences.

Perarivalan was 19 years old when he was arrested for his involvement in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. He was charged with supplying the two nine-volt batteries which were eventually used in the belt bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi.

Though the TADA court had sentenced 26 persons to death in the case, the Supreme Court, in 1999, acquitted 19 persons and convicted only seven. Of the seven, Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan were awarded death sentences while the other three were sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of the four convicts to life, citing delays in deciding on their mercy pleas.

It was in December 2015 that Perarivalan filed a mercy plea again after undergoing solitary confinement for 24 years, and in the next year, the Tamil Nadu government sent a proposal to the Union government seeking remission of all seven convicts.

In March 2016, the Tamil Nadu government had sent a letter to the Union government seeking their concurrence in releasing the convicts. However, the Union government deferred taking a decision for two years. In April 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs replied to the state government saying that it did not concur in releasing the convicts.

Perarivalan’s plea for remission, meanwhile, gained more strength after a former CBI official in 2017 admitted to omitting a crucial part of Periravalan’s confessional statement.

The officer, Thiagarajan, who had earlier recorded the confession, said in 2017 that he had failed to record that Perarivalan was unaware of the purpose of the two batteries he was asked to purchase.

The official also said that Periravalan did not know the use of the batteries, which was revealed after investigation, and expressed remorse that Periravalan languished in jail for two decades.

In September 2018, the Edappadi Palaniswami-led Tamil Nadu government passed a cabinet resolution recommending the release of all seven convicts to the Governor. It was this recommendation that Governor Banwarilal Purohit has been sitting on.

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed on 21 May,1991 at Sriperumbudur near Chennai, where he was campaigning for the elections scheduled later that year. A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) operative named Dhanu (Thenmozhi Rajarathnam) detonated an explosive-laden vest that she was wearing as she bent down to touch his feet. The explosion killed Dhanu, Rajiv Gandhi and 14 others.

There has been opposition to the release of the convicts, especially by many of the families of those who lost their lives in the blast that killed Rajiv Gandhi.

(This story was first published in The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)

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