New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered the release of A G Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, exercising its special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.
The order came 24 years after Perarivalan was sentenced to death in the case by a lower court, and two months after he was granted bail by the apex court. Perarivalan was arrested on June 11, 1991, at the age of 19, weeks after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed in a suicide bomb attack at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21.
“In exercise of our power under Article 142 of the Constitution, we direct that the Appellant is deemed to have served the sentence in connection with (the) crime. The Appellant, who is already on bail, is set at liberty forthwith. His bail bonds are canceled,” the apex court ordered.
“I clearly believe there is no need for capital punishment. Not just for mercy…many justices including Supreme Court chief justices have said so and there are many examples. Everybody is human.”
– AG Perarivalan after his release orders came
During the hearing, the apex court had questioned the Tamil Nadu Governor, for not deciding on the state government’s recommendation to release all convicts in the case, which was made to the Governor way back in September 2018.
It took strong objection to the Governor sitting on Cabinet’s recommendation to release Perarivalan for over three years and then forwarding it to the President.
The bench said: “Taking into account the appellant’s prolonged period of incarceration, his satisfactory conduct in jail as well as during parole, chronic ailments from his medical records, his educational qualifications acquired during incarceration, and the pendency of his petition under Article 161 for two and a half years after the recommendation of the State Cabinet, we do not consider it fit to remand the matter for the Governor’s consideration.”
“A terrorist is a terrorist and should be treated as one. Today, we are deeply pained and disappointed at the decision of the Supreme Court ordering the release of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassin”.
– Congress leader Randeep Surjewala
The top court judgment came on Perarivalan’s remission plea. In 2014, the death sentence of Perarivalan and two others in the case – Sri Lankan nationals Murugan and Santhan, were commuted to life citing the long pendency of their mercy petitions.