Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: Was Governor right in referring state cabinet decision on pardon to President? SC reserves verdict

The SC bench, however, clarified that the verdict is limited to the issue of “whether the Governor could have referred the decision taken by the Council of Ministers of Tamil Nadu to grant early remission to Perarivalan, to the President for his consideration.”

Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict after hearing the remission plea of Rajiv Gandhi murder convict A G Perarivalan. The Centre defended the decision by the Tamil Nadu Governor to send Perarivalan’s mercy plea to the President.

The bench, however, clarified that the verdict is limited to the issue of “whether the Governor could have referred the decision taken by the Council of Ministers of Tamil Nadu to grant early remission to Perarivalan, to the President for his consideration.”

Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj argued that only the President has the power to pardon, suspend, remit or commute a sentence, while pointing out that Perarivalan was convicted under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which is a central law.

Taking objection to this, the three-judge SC bench led by Justice L Nageswara Rao noted that if this was the case, then all remission granted by the governors till date shall become invalid.

Additional Solicitor General, appearing for the Tamil Nadu Governor, submitted that the Centre, and not the state, holds primacy over laws which are central in nature. He pointed out that the laws under which Perarivalan was convicted were framed in the parliament.

As reported by Bar and Bench, this prompted Justice BR Gavai, who was part of the bench hearing the case, to say,

“If your contention is to be accepted, then in every case of murder, only the President will have power (to decide on remission).”

To which the ASG argued that the investigation was conducted by a central agency and charges of murder are part of the IPC, which is a central law.

“If somebody encroaches on our powers and decisions, then we have every right to refer,” the ASG said.

Replying to this, Justice Gavai asked, “By that logic States cannot pardon convicts and will have to refer to the President each time?”

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the IPC has been amended time and again. Hence, the central government can’t claim primacy over it.

“So the President has exclusive power for IPC offences? So all pardons by Governors in such offences since last 70-75 years (have been) unconstitutional?”, Justice Rao asked.

The top court had earlier stated that the Governor was bound to act on the decision take by the Tamil Nadu state cabinet on the release of Perarivalan as per Article 161 of the constitution, and disproved of the Governor’s decision to refer the mercy petition to the President.

“It is a matter to be decided by the court, the decision of the Governor was not even needed, he is bound by the decision of the council of ministers. We will have to look into this,” the bench had told the Additional Solicitor General while pointing out that the Governor can’t close his eyes to the constitution.

On March 9, the Supreme Court had granted bail to Perarivalan while taking note of his long incarceration of over 35 years and no history of complaints when out on parole.

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

Most Read In India News
Photos