'What do we do?': Supreme Court comes down hard on Centre on Perarivalan's clemency plea!

The Supreme Court has on Tuesday came down hard on Centre's representation over the clemency plea moved by Perarivalan, who is one among the seven convicts serving three decades of incarceration in the assassination case of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He has been taking legal measures to seek a release from the prison and he also had petitioned the Tamil Nadu Governor to grant him amnesty. 

When his writ plea before the apex court came to the hearing on Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre, had sought adjournment from the hearing for which the bench came down hard on him. Though the bench eventually adjourned the matter to January, it has affirmed that no adjournment will be granted after January. The bench was comprised of Justices Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai, and BV Nagarathna. On Tuesday, Tushar Mehta has sought an adjournment by citing that he had to appear before other courts and pleaded with the bench to schedule Perarivalan's matter for hearing later this week. 

However, the bench has reprimanded Mehta and advised that he should have been informed about his schedule earlier. Expressing its dissatisfaction with the request of the adjournment, the bench said, "What do we do? If everything is adjourned, you should tell us early. " Perarivalan noted the inaction of the Tamil Nadu Governor to decide on the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu government in September 2018 to grant him pardon. 

His counsel Gopal Shankaranarayanan said Perarivalan has been in custody for thirty years and relief should be granted to him. After a brief hearing in the matter, the apex court had scheduled the matter for further hearing in January and stressed to the Solicitor General not to take any adjournments. It must be noted that Perarivalan is among the longest-serving inmates in India and he has been in prison since 1991 along with six others, including a woman, Nalini. In 1999, he was given a death sentence for assassinating Rajiv Gandhi. 

However, in 2014, the apex court had commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in deciding their mercy petitions. Perarivalan was convicted of helping in making the bomb, that killed Rajiv Gandhi in 199 in Sriperumbudur, Chennai. As years went by, the voices for their release grow in Tamil Nadu and four years later, in 2018, the previous ADMK regime had passed a resolution in the assembly and recommended the Governor to release him from the prison. The resolution was lying before the Governor for years until he passed the ball to the President's court. 

In February this year, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had informed the Supreme Court that the Tamil Nadu Governor has recorded that President is the competent authority to deal with the clemency plea of Perarivalan. The Home Ministry had submitted the affidavit that said that the Governor has put his record by considering the facts and circumstances of the case. The Supreme Court had on various occasions had expressed its criticism over the pendency of the pardon plea of Perarivalan for over two years.

Perarivalan had filed his mercy plea before the Tamil Nadu Governor in December 2015 under Article 161 of the Constitution, which deals with the remission powers of the Governor. He then filed his writ petition in 2016 and he also noted that the investigating officer in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case later made a disclosure that he made a mistake by excluding crucial parts of his statement given by him during the recording of his evidence. On Tuesday, the apex court had directed the Centre to decide on Perarivalan's mercy petition soon.