Chennai: The Tamil Nadu Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Sunday resolved to recommend to the Governor the release of seven life convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case using its powers under Article 161 of the Constitution. The development comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court recently conveying that the mercy application of Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts, could be examined by the Governor.
Briefing journalists on the Cabinet resolution, senior minister D Jayakumar said, “The Governor will have to accept the recommendation of the Council of Ministers. There is nothing to reject.” The Cabinet resolution would be sent to the Governor without any delay, he added. Article 161 of the Constitution deals with the power of Governor to grant pardons and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
Rajiv Gandhi was blown to pieces by a human bomb Dhanu of the LTTE at an election rally in Sriperumbudur, about 40 kilometres away from Chennai, on the night of May 21, 1991. As many as 26 persons put to trial were sentenced to death by a trial court in January 1998. However, a year later, the Supreme Court set free 19 of them and upheld death penalty for Nalini, her husband Sriharan alias Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, while it commuted the sentence to life in the case of three others – Robert Payas, Ravichandran and Jayakumar. Murugan, Santhan and Payas are Sri Lankan nationals.
Nalini’s sentence was commuted to life by the Governor in April 2000. In February 2014, the Supreme Court commuted to life the death sentence awarded to the remaining three black warrant prisoners citing inordinate delay in deciding on their mercy petitions by the President. Minister Jayakumar said that though the Supreme Court had mentioned only Perarivalan’s plea, the other six convicts too had pleaded with the Governor and the State Government to be set free. According to him, the Supreme Court’s direction is clear. “The Governor represents the State as its executive head. Whatever decision is taken by the government, the Governor shall execute it,” he argued. The Minister did not want to go into the past of the case. “What is present is important,” he said claiming that the Tamil race favoured the release of the seven convicts.