Supreme Court grants bail to convict in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case

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A Supreme Court bench of Justices Nageshwar Rao and Gawai today granted bail to A. Perarivalan, a convict in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He was initially awarded death sentence which was commuted to life imprisonment by Supreme Court in 2014.

When the matter came up for hearing, ASG KM Natraj, vehemently opposed to bail being granted to Perarivalan stating that he has already availed the benefit of mercy petition once since his death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment by Supreme Court.

He further contended that it should be determined as to who is the appropriate authority to process the request for remission.

Sr. Adv. Gopal Shankarnarayanan, appearing for Perarivalan submitted that a mercy petition was filed on December 30, 2015 and it was placed before the Governor of Tamil Nadu. In 2018, the Governor took objection to it as the petitions of the families of the victims were still pending.

After these petitions were disposed, the CBI informed the Governor that it was upto him to decide on the mercy petition. However in 2021, the Centre informed the Court that the Tamil Nadu Governor has proposed to place the mercy petition before the President of India.

The Court noted that Perarivalan was convicted and sentenced to death for offences under under Section 120 read with 302, 324 etc of IPC.The conviction and the sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court.

He filed a Writ Petition before the Madras High Court for commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment, which was subsequently transferred to Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had on February 18 commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. The Court noted that the  present SLPs have been filed against orders of the High Court in 2015 which challenged the order of the TADA Court refusing to monitor investigation. The Court further noted that during the pendency of these SLPs, the mercy petition was considered and the  decision was place before the Governor.

The Court further noted that as there was delay in the decision being taken by the Governor, it had sought instructions from AAG of Tamil Nadu as to why no decision was being taken.

During the course of the hearing the Solicitor General submitted that the Governor would take the decision expeditiously.

The Court then noted that they have been informed that the Governor has referred the matter to the President of India. The Court held that there is no dispute regarding the fact that Perarivalan has undergone a sentence of 32 years.

The Court said, “We are informed that the applicant was released on parole twice earlier. We are also informed that he is on parole at present. In view of the stand taken by the Union of India that the State does not have power to entertain mercy petition under Article 161 especially since his death sentence was commuted, the matter has to be heard at length.”

The Court further held that there is sufficient material produced by Perarivalan about his conduct during his time in jail, education and his ill health. The Court held that taking into account the fact that he has already spent more than 30 years , he is entitled to be released on bail despite vehement opposition by the Centre.

The Court held that the bail is however subject to the outcome of the SLP, and directed Perarivalan to report to the Police Station at Jolarpettai in the first week of every month in addition to conditions that maybe imposed by the local trial court.

Cause Title: AG Perarivalan vs State of Tamil Nadu