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Respect SC Ruling To Free Perarivalan: CBI Officer Who Probed Rajiv Gandhi Death

On 18 May, the SC ruled to free AG Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case

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On Wednesday, 18 May, the Supreme Court ruled to free AG Perarivalan alias Arivu, one of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Hours after the 51-year-old’s release, The News Minute spoke to former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer Dr Kaarthikeyan, who had led investigations in the high-profile case.

The former cop had served as the joint-director of the CBI’s Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was instrumental in charge-sheeting Perarivalan and the six other convicts.

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'Expected This Outcome': Former CBI Officer Kaarthikeyan

Following Arivu’s release, Kaarthikeyan said that he respects the Supreme Court’s decision to free the 51-year-old who had spent more than half his lifetime in prison.

“I had expected this outcome. Going by the trends of the arguments made in the Supreme Court in Perarivalan’s mercy plea, it was clear that the court was likely to commute his sentence,” Kaarthikeyan said.

However, the former cop said that the SC had not mentioned that Perarivalan or the other six convicts were innocent. “He (Perarivalan) spent 31 years in prison and his conduct was good. It is up to the court to then decide whether his sentence can be commuted. How long can you keep releasing the convicts on bail? Therefore, I respect the court’s decision. However, the court has never said that these convicts were innocent,” Kaarthikeyan insisted.

He maintained that all the seven convicts who were sentenced to life terms were charge-sheeted based on evidence collected after months of investigations by the CBI SIT. “From the 26 people who were brought before the court, the Supreme Court finally sentenced these seven people to life terms for the nature of the crimes. This is based on the evidence we found,” he said.

When asked about former CBI officer Thiagarajan’s admission of failing to record Perarivalan’s entire confession, Kaarthikeyan maintained that the evidence based on which the seven convicts had been charge-sheeted was not limited to confession statements.

“The SC looked at all the other evidence included in the chargesheet before pronouncing the sentence,” he said. Ex-CBI officer V Thiagarajan had, in 2013, confessed that he had failed to record Perarivalan’s confession statement in which the latter said that he was not aware why he was asked to buy the batteries that were used in the bomb that killed the former prime minister. Had he recorded the entire confession, there was a possibility that Perarivalan would have walked free much earlier.

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A Blind Case

The former CBI cop has also published a book titled Triumphs of Truth – Rajiv Gandhi Assassination, which details the CBI’s controversial probe into the case.

“So many of my colleagues had at the time refused to take up investigations in the case. This was a blind case, with no clues as to who could have perpetrated it. The foreign intelligence at the time had not provided us with any indication that it could be any organisation or group of individuals. I was in Hyderabad at the time, and was given the offer to take up the investigation. We set up the team and began to probe the case,” Kaarthikeyan recalled.

The former top cop also added that he and his team approached the investigation with an open mind and pieced together every bit of oral and scientific evidence, etc, that led them to the suspects.

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On Life Term and Capital Punishment

When asked for his view on whether crimes of such national importance warrant capital punishment/ life term, Kaarthikeyan maintained that India needs to have a debate on the issue cutting across party lines in the Parliament.

“We do not have an established rule when it comes to capital punishment. What is the maximum punishment awarded in our country, is it death penalty or life sentence of upto 14 years or for life, etc. – these are questions that need to be discussed and decided by the courts and the Parliament. It is ultimately the will of the people that makes this decision,” he added.

(Published in arrangement with The News Minute.)

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