For the first time in three decades - precisely since 1991, AG Perarivalan, one among seven convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, has won bail on Wednesday - March 9. Being the longest-serving inmates in India, these convicts have braced up life incarceration with their respective prisons becoming their permanent homes. Apart from one convict - Nalini, the rest of them were awarded capital punishment in 1999 and in 2014, their sentences were commuted to life.
While these convicts were given parole, no one was granted bail in three decades. In the midst of a legal battle from their families - particularly from Perarivalan's mother Arputhammal, her son, who was taken to the prison at the age of 19, would spend more time with her at the of 49. On Wednesday, Supreme Court has granted bail to Perarivalan, opening a similar window for the other convicts. A bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao had granted the bail stating that Perarivalan had undergone imprisonment for 32 years.
Assistant Solicitor General KM Nataraj has opposed the bail. However, his argument only saw the first time bail order. The apex court has said that the bail will be subject to conditions by the trial court and he should report to the CBI officer on the first of every month. For the time being, Perarivalan was asked to report to the local police station. Currently, he has been on parole, which is the fourth episode of a brief walkout from the prison.
While passing the order, the court has noted that there was no complaint about his conduct when he was released on parole three times. The apex judicial body has also highlighted that he is entitled to get released on bail, based on the fact that he had spent three decades in jail. In the order, the court said, "Taking into account the fact that the applicant has spent over 30 years in prison, we are of the considered view that he is entitled to be released on bail, in spite of the vehement opposition by the Centre."
Perarivalan and his family had endured a long battle and despair ever since he got arrested under the charges of his involvement in killing the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He was charged with supplying the two nine-volt batteries, which were eventually used in the belt bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. However, in later years, a CBI investigating officer, who was part of the team which probed the case, has revealed that Perarivalan didn't know the purpose why he bought the batteries and that he didn't record that statement in his confession.
Following that revelation, voices in Tamil Nadu had grown demanding the release of Perarivalan with several people echoing that he has no role in assassinating Rajiv Gandhi. Perarivalan was arrested in 1991 and though a trial court had sentenced 26 persons to death in the case, the Supreme Court had in 1999 acquitted 19 persons and convicted seven others. After the conviction, the court has awarded the death penalty to Perarivalan, Santhan, Murugan, and Nalini while the other three convicts were given life imprisonment.
However, in 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of the four convicts to life by citing delay in deciding on their mercy petitions. In 2017, CBI's former investigation officer, Thiagarajan, has confessed that he had ignored an important part of Perarivalan's statement of confession. He had admitted that he had failed to record that Perarivalan was not aware of the purpose why he bought two batteries and did not know the use of the batteries.
Thiagarajan had expressed his regret that Perarivalan had spent three decades in jail for the mistake he had done. As the voices had grown to acquire Perarivalan, the previous ADMK regime in September 2018 passed a cabinet resolution recommending the release of all seven convicts including Perarivalan to the Governor. Amid the legal battle for the release, Perarivalan had received paroles and had exhibited good conduct, which was reflected in the Supreme Court's order of bail to him.
The reports say that he was also granted bail based on his educational qualification and ill health. On the other hand, Perarivalan's bail has increased the prospect of similar relief for the rest of the convicts. Speaking to the reporters following the bail, Perarivalan's counsel Prabhu has said that the remaining convicts have an opportunity to get bail following Perarivalan. After learning that Perarivalan was awarded bail, several leaders and parties in Tamil Nadu including VCK and Communist had welcomed the verdict.