The Supreme Court has on Wednesday - May 4 said that it is ready to release Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, who is now on the bail. He had approached the apex court and sought a directive to suspend his life sentence and while hearing the matter on Wednesday, the court has come down hard on the respondent and directed the Union government to submit its final response towards Perarivalan's plea by next week.
By citing that the President's decision on the release of Perarivalan will not have any bearing on the court's decision in his plea for pardon, the apex court's bench comprised of Justices L Nagesawara Rao and B Gavai said that the Governor is bound by the state's decision. The justices said, "We will pass the order to release him from jail as you (Centre) are not ready to argue the case of merits."
The bench further said, "The question is about the power of the Governor and not about the President's decision on it." The bench has noted that it has to look into whether the Constitution allows the Governor to forward state decisions to the President, and what the Governor could have done in this situation. The court has also noted that Perarivalan's conduct in jail was good, and that he is being discriminated against under Article 14 of the Constitution - the right to equality.
While the Centre had backed the Governor's actions by claiming that he is allowed to forward the decisions to the President, the Supreme Court has asked why the Union government has been defending the Governor's action in this regard. Highlighting that the state has to defend the Governor instead of the Union government, the bench has said that the Governor can take a decision contrary to the state cabinet and can send the matter to the state.
The apex court further said that if the Union government has nothing else to argue in Perarivalan's plea, it will pronounce the orders for Perarivalan's release immediately. The bench has adjourned the hearing for May 10 by noting, "We cannot shut our eyes when there is a violation of the Constitution. It is our Bible. Nobody is above law. There are certain powers conferred to dignitaries, but the working of the Constitution cannot come to a stall."
Perarivalan, who had spent three decades in the prison, was awarded the bail by the Supreme Court in March this year. He was one of the seven convicts in the assassination case of the then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. He was accused of purchasing nine-volt batteries that had killed Rajiv Gandhi.
However, the CBI official who had recorded his statement said in 2017 that he had failed to record his confession of Perarivalan that he was unaware of the purpose of the two batteries he had purchased. He had been jailed since 1991 and in 1999, he was awarded the death sentence. However, in 2014, his sentence was commuted to life.