The Supreme Court Tuesday sought within four weeks the latest status report from the CBI-led Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) on its probe into unravelling a larger conspiracy behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The top court said the last MDMA report is about a year old, and at that time response was awaited on several Letters Rogatory (LRs) sent to foreign countries with regard to the case. The MDMA, set up in 1998 on the recommendations of Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry which had probed the conspiracy aspect of Gandhi’s assassination, is headed by a CBI official and comprises officers from IB, RAW and Revenue Intelligence and other agencies.
A bench of L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta told additional solicitor general Pinki Anand, appearing for the MDMA, that the latest report should also include status of LRs sent to Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries. “Latest status report be filed in four weeks. List the matter after four weeks,” the bench said. The top court was hearing a plea of 46-year-old A G Perarivalan, who has sought suspension of his life sentence in the case till the completion of the probe by MDMA into the larger conspiracy behind the assassination.
At the outset, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for Perarivalan said that his role was only limited to procuring nine-volt batteries, which were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that had killed Gandhi. Anand opposed the submission of Sankaranarayanan and said his role was not limited to procurement of batteries. On March 14 last year, the apex court had asked the MDMA to file a status report in four weeks with regard to the status of a LR sent to Sri Lanka for examining one of the accused Nixon alias Suren, who is lodged in Colombo jail. The top court had dismissed a plea of Perarivalan seeking recall of the May 11, 1999 verdict upholding his conviction.
It said the material brought on record before it does not inspire confidence to interfere with the verdict in which Perarivalan and three others were initially awarded death sentence, which was later commuted to life term. The CBI had earlier submitted that Perarivalan had even visited Jaffna in Sri Lanka in the first week of June 1990, besides attending a public meeting along with other conspirators which was addressed by former Prime Minister V P Singh on May 7, 1991 in Tamil Nadu. The probe agency had said that even if the part of the confessional statement of Perarivalan recorded under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act by former CBI official V Thiagarajan is taken out, there is enough material to suggest that he was an active conspirator in the assassination.
Perarivalan through his counsel had earlier contended that the knowledge and intent were the two key points attributed to him which may not be correct and all aspects have to be looked into in entirety. His counsel had submitted that Perarivalan was just 19-year-old when the incident had taken place and had no knowledge of what he was doing and for what purpose batteries were purchased. Former prime minister Rajiv 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. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed.
Gandhi’s assassination was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile leader. In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts — Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and Nalini — in the assassination case. In April 2000, the Tamil Nadu governor had commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the basis of state government’s recommendation and an appeal by former Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi.
On February 18, 2014, the top court had commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment, along with that of two other prisoners – Santhan and Murugan – on grounds of a delay of 11 years in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.