A G Perarivalan, one of the convicts facing life imprisonment in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, will be released, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. Perarivalan has already served over 30 years of life term. The verdict has also paved the way for the release of six other convicts in the case, including Nalini Sriharan and her husband Murugan, a Sri Lankan national.
A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao invoked its extraordinary power under Article 142 to grant relief to Perarivalan. “State cabinet had taken its decision based on relevant considerations. In exercise of Article 142, it is appropriate to release the convict,” the bench said.
Perarivalan alias Arivu, 50, was 19 when he was arrested on June 11, 1991. He was accused of having bought two 9-volt ‘Golden Power’ battery cells for Sivarasan, the LTTE man who masterminded the conspiracy. The batteries were used in the bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi on May 21 that year.
Perarivalan was sentenced to death by a TADA court in 1998, and the sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1999. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court on February 18, 2014, along with the death sentences awarded to other convicts in the case, Murugan and Santhan.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had said that the Tamil Nadu Governor was bound by the decision of the state cabinet on the release of Perarivalan and disapproved of his action sending the mercy plea to the President saying it cannot shut eyes to something against the Constitution. The top court had refused to agree with the Centre’s suggestion that the court should wait till the President decides on the issue.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai told the Centre that the Governor was bound by the aid and advice given by the Tamil Nadu Council of Ministers under Article 161 of the Constitution while directing the Centre to submit its response by next week.
The ongoing case in the SC was part of a 2015 remission plea submitted by Perarivalan to the Tamil Nadu Governor, seeking release under Article 161 of the Constitution. He moved the Supreme Court after receiving no response. He received parole for the first time in August 2017, to meet his ailing father, a Tamil poet and a retired school teacher.
Giving legitimacy to Perarivalan’s claims, a 1981-batch IPS officer named V Thiagarajan revealed in 2013 that he had, in fact, altered the statement that was taken from Perarivalan while he was in custody under TADA. Thiagarajan revealed that Perarivalan had indeed admitted to having purchased the batteries, but he did not know the purpose.
Four witnesses were examined by the TADA court regarding the 9 volt battery to corroborate Perarivalan’s confession statement. Of these four witnesses, three were forensic experts who gave expert opinions on the battery and the bomb. The fourth was an employee of a shop in Chennai that claimed to have sold the battery.