Perarivalan's plea and Arputham Ammal's hope: Will TN Governor stand by his word?

Throwing the ball on the court of Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, the Central government has on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the Tamil Nadu Governor will be taking a final call on the Tamil Nadu government's recommendation of pardoning G Perarivalan, who has been lodged in the prison for three decades, under the charges of assassinating the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. 

Awakening from the interminable sleep of over two years, Banwarilal Purohit had conveyed to the apex court that he will decide on the state government's recommendation to pardon Peraraivalan and the high-level drama that unfolded in Delhi had drawn the years-long wait towards the conclusion, which has now sparked voices from across Tamil Nadu that demanded the Governor to grant Perarivalan with the pardon. 

The Supreme Court was hearing the plea moved by Perarivalan in which he sought the directive from the top judicial body to release him from the prison based on the state government's recommendation in 2018. The plea came up for hearing on Thursday during which Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Central government, said that the Tamil Nadu Governor will take a decision in three or four days. Through his statement, the Central government has apparently made a U-Turn and threw a ball on the Governor's court. 

The Tamil Nadu Governor has asserted to the apex court that he will decide on Tamil Nadu's recommendation soon. According to a news agency, the Governor has two options before him - accept the government's recommendation of pardoning Perarivalan or sending it back for reconsideration and the Governor doesn't have the authority to reject the state's recommendation. The Central government had on Thursday backed off from the stand that it took on Wednesday. 

According to reports, the Supreme Court had on Wednesday termed the delay in the Governor's decision to release Perarivalan as extraordinary as the Tamil Nadu government had already recommended a remission. However, the Central government had questioned the power of the Governor on granting clemency to the convict, under Article 161 of the Constitution. Additional Solicitor General said in the apex court that Perarivalan's plea should go to the President and not to the Governor. 

Advocates Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Prabhu Ramasubramanian, who were representing Perarivalan, had responded to the Center's argument and said that the Union Government's argument was suggesting that for 70 years, pardon pleas were being sent to the wrong person. The advocates asked the Center whether all the political prisoners now approach the President for a pardon and stated that the Union government brings up something new in the case every five years.

While the Center said that Perarivalan must approach the President for the pardon, on Thursday it had changed its stance by claiming that the Governor will take a final decision in the state government's recommendation in three to four days. The Governor also said that he will decide soon on the recommendation. As the ball is on the Governor's court, all eyes are on him on whether he will stand by his word of making the decision soon. 

Perarivalan has been serving life imprisonment since 1991 along with six other convicts under the charges of assassinating the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when he came for the campaign in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. Peraruvalan was charged for buying two batteries and handed over to Sivarasan and these batteries were used in the belt bomb that Dhanu used to kill Rajiv Gandhi. In 1991, he was arrested and in 1999, the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentence to Perarivalan, Nalini, Murugan, and other four people for killing Rajiv Gandhi. However,  Nalini's death sentence was commuted to life in 2000 while the apex court in 2014 had commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment. 

After their sentences were commuted, then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had in February 2014 announced that the state government would release the convicts under section 432 of CrPC. However, the Supreme Court had halted the decision of releasing them and after many challenges, the Tamil Nadu government led by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami passed a resolution in September 2018 and recommended the Governor to release the seven convicts. However, the recommendation has been lying on Governor's desk for over two years and he has been surfaced with the demand from the activists and leaders to grant the pardon to Perarivalan and other prisoners. 

Before moving the recommendation to the Governor,  the Chief Minister had convened a cabinet meeting and it was unanimously agreed that they could be granted release as they had spent 30 years in prison. The release was recommended under Article 161 of the Constitution. With the Governor's assertion to the Supreme Court on Thursday, it has been expected that he will take a final decision over the government's recommendation of acquitting them. As the Central government said that the Governor will be taking the decision in three to four days, Perarivalan's mother Arputhammal, who has been tirelessly working towards his son's release after embracing incessant pain and agony, has on Thursday said that she hopes that the Governor will take the decision of pardoning her son.