The Supreme Court today said it would hear in October a plea by one of the convicts in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, regarding the status of probe by the CBI-led Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) into conspiracy behind the murder. The MDMA, set up in 1998, has been investigating the larger conspiracy behind Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination 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 in the blast.
Gandhi’s assassination was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile leader. The MDMA, which was established on the recommendations of Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry that 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.
The matter today came up for hearing before a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Navin Sinha and K M Joseph. “We will have to hear it,” the bench said, adding that the case would be listed for hearing in October. 45-year-old A G Perarivalan, who is serving life sentence, had earlier moved the apex court seeking suspension of his jail term till the completion of the probe by the MDMA.
The MDMA, in its report filed in the apex court earlier, had said that probe was still open and Letters Rogatory were issued to various countries, including Sri Lanka, where some of the persons required to be investigated were residing. On March 14, the top court had dismissed Perarivalan’s plea seeking recall of the May 11, 1999 verdict upholding his conviction in the case.
The court had asked the MDMA to file a report with regard to the status of a letter rogatory sent to Sri Lanka for examining one of the accused Nixon alias Suren, who is lodged in Colombo jail. Recently on August 10, the Centre had told the apex court that it does not concur with the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to release seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, saying remission of their sentence will set a “dangerous precedent” and have “international ramifications”.
On January 23, the apex court had asked the Centre to take a decision within three months on a 2016 letter by the Tamil Nadu government seeking its concurrence on releasing the seven convicts. The letter, written on March 2, 2016, had said the state government has already decided to release the seven convicts, but it is necessary to seek the Centre’s concurrence as per an apex court order of 2015.
The convicts, V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthendraraja alias Santham, A G Perarivalan alias Arivu, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, P Ravichandaran and Nalini, have been in jail for 25 years. 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. The apex court had on February 18, 2014, commuted death sentence of three convicts – Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan – citing inordinate delay by the executive in deciding their mercy plea.