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Rajiv Gandhi's assassination: Supreme Court asks Centre to clarify its position on release of AG Perarivalan

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao also pulled up the Central government and said that it "will release" Perarivalan if the government does not take a stand on the convict's mercy plea within a week

ANI | Updated on: Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 08:27 PM IST

Rajiv Gandhi  |
Rajiv Gandhi |
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to clarify its position on the release of AG Perarivalan, one of the convicts serving life imprisonment in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao also pulled up the Central government and said that it "will release" Perarivalan if the government does not take a stand on the convict's mercy plea within a week.

"He has already spent 36 years in jail then why not we release him," said the bench.

The apex court also took strong exception on the action of the Tamil Nadu Governor for sitting on the Cabinet's release recommendation for more than three and half years and then forwarding it to the President.

"Why don't you just agree to have him released? People who have served over 20 years are released... We are also offering you an escape route. Your argument that the Governor does not have the jurisdiction to take a decision on the mercy plea under Article 161 strikes a blow on the federal structure of the Constitution... Under which provision can the Governor refer the decision of the State Cabinet to the President?" the apex court bench told Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the Centre.

"If at all the Governor disagrees with the State Cabinet decision to release him, the proper course for him would be to refer it back to the Cabinet and not forward it to the President, who is bound by the aid and advice of the Centre... That cannot simply be done. We prima facie find the Governor's action wrong and you are arguing against the Constitution," it added.

The matter has been listed for further hearing on May 4.

On March 9, the apex court had granted bail to Perarivalan while taking into consideration his conduct, ill health and the fact that he has spent more than 30 years in prison.

The bench had noted that there were no complaints about his conduct when he was released thrice before on parole.

Perarivalan was ordered to be released on bail for the first time since when he was arrested.

The bench had taken into note that Governor is yet to decide on Perarivalan's plea seeking release from prison.

The apex court had granted bail to Perarivalan despite the Centre opposing his bail plea vehemently.

Perarivalan had approached the top court seeking release from the prison based on the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu government in September 2018.

The Central government had earlier apprised the apex court that the Tamil Nadu Governor, after considering all the facts on record and relevant documents, said that the President of India is the "appropriate competent authority" to deal with the pardon plea of Perarivalan.

The top court by its January 21, 2021 order had asked the Governor to decide the Perarivalan's remission of sentence plea.

It had earlier expressed unhappiness over the fact that the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu state government for the remission of the sentence had been pending before the Governor for over two years.

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.

On February 18, 2014, the apex court commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment on grounds of a delay of 11 years in deciding the mercy pleas by the Centre.

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Published on: Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 08:27 PM IST