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SC grants bail to A.G. Perarivalan convicted for aiding Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination

His application was considered since he had spent more than 32 years in prison with a history of good conduct

Sabrangindia 11 Mar 2022

A G PerarivalanImage Courtesy:indianexpress.com

A.G. Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts serving a life sentence in connection with the May 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was granted bail by a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai. The Bench took into consideration that the applicant has spent over 30 years of his life in prison. He has been lodged in Chennai’s Puzhal Central Prison for nearly 32 years.

Who is Perarivalan?

AG Perarivalan, or Arivu as he is also known, is the son of Tamil poet Kuyildasan. He was born on 30 July 1971 in Jolarpet, Tamil Nadu. He was 19 years old living in Chennai at the time of assassination and had just completed a diploma in electronics and communication. He completed his bachelor of computer applications and master of computer applications degrees through the Indira Gandhi National Open University while serving his sentence in prison. 

The Arrest and Conviction

Perarivalan, was arrested on June 11, 1991, and was accused of having procured a set of 9V batteries for Sivarasan (the LTTE operative who masterminded the conspiracy). These batteries were used to build the bomb that was packed into the vest of the Gandhi’s assassin, a suicide bomber named Dhanu, who wore it to his rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, on the evening of May 21, 1991.

The CBI filed a case against 41 people, including Perarivalan in 1998, under the now repealed Terrorism And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). Later in 1998, a trial court convicted Perarivalan along with 25 others and sentenced them to death. On an appeal to the Supreme Court of India, only 7 were sent to the death row and 19 accused got acquitted.

Twist and Turns

In 2013, Perarivalan’s case took a turn after V. Thiagarajan, a former superintendent of police in the CBI, admitted to having altered his confession. Thiagarajan told documentary-makers from the People’s Movement Against Death Penalty, an organisation founded by the late Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer, that he did not take down his statement verbatim.

“Arivu told me that he did not know why they asked him to buy that [the battery]. But I did not record that in the confessional statement. Then the investigation was in progress, so that particular statement I did not record. Strictly speaking, law expects you to record a statement verbatim… we don’t do that in practice,” Thiagarajan  had said, as quoted in a report in The Hindu. 

Perarivalan remained on death row until 2014, when the Supreme Court in its Judgement dated February 18, 2014 commuted his sentence as well as those of two others to life imprisonment on account of 11-year delay on the part of the President to respond to their mercy petition.

Before passing of the September 2018 Order by Supreme Court, V. Thiagarajan, a former superintendent of police in the CBI, submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court in the year 2017, stating that Perarivalan was “totally in the dark as to the purpose for which the batteries were purchased.”

Mercy plea

Perarivalan had told the court that he had filed his mercy plea before then Governor K Rosaiah on December 30, 2015. The question of remission of his sentence remains pending due to the larger question of which authority can actually consider the petition - the Tamil Nadu Governor or the President.

Special Leave Petition

Perarivalan had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court in 2016 against the refusal of Madras High Court to entertain his plea for seeking commutation of sentence.

In the order passed on September 6, 2018, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Navin Sinha and K M Joseph had noted that Perarivalan had filed an application before the Governor under Article 161, and that “the authority concerned will be at liberty to decide the said application as deemed fit.” The Petition is kept pending to decide the larger issue relating to the appropriate authority to decide the matter of remission – Governor or President.

Following the Supreme Court’s order, the state Cabinet had decided on September 9, 2018, to recommend to the then Governor (BL Purohit) to remit sentences of all seven convicts serving life terms in the case, including Perarivalan. This recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu State Government for remission of the sentence had been pending before the Governor for 2 years.

On January 22, 2021, the Supreme Court asked the Governor to decide the Petitioner’s application for remission. On February 4, 2021, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that the Tamil Nadu Governor has proposed that the President of India was the competent authority to deal with the request of remission of sentence in case of AG Perarivalan.

Senior Advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan is representing Perarivalan in the Special Leave Petition no. 10039 of 2016 filed before the Supreme Court. While making his submissions, the advocate brought it to the Court’s notice that the mercy petition was filed before the Governor in December 2015 which was noted by the Constitution bench; and also that in September 2018, the State Government made a recommendation to the Governor to tender pardon to Perarivalan. However the Governor kept the matter pending.

The advocate made further submissions stating that Perarivalan had been granted Parole twice and was also on parole at that time. There were no complaints of his conduct during his release. He further submitted that Perarivalan had acquired his educational qualifications while serving his death sentence.

The Supreme Court, on hearing the stand of the Union of India that the State Government does not have the power to entertain a mercy petition under Article 161 of the Constitution of India, even after the death sentence of the applicant is commuted to life imprisonment, felt the matter needs to be heard.

 The Supreme Court, upon considering the applicant’s behaviour during his long incarceration in the jail, his educational qualifications acquired during his sentence, ill health and also that he had already spent more than 30 years of life in prison, decided to release the applicant on bail.

Supreme Court held that:

“There is sufficient material that has been produced on behalf of the applicant about his conduct during his long incarceration in jail, acquisition of educational qualifications and his ill health. Taking into account the fact that the applicant has already spent more than 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 Mr. K.M. Nataraj, learned Additional Solicitor General.”

Perarivalan was released on bail as per an Order dated March 9, in an Interim Application no. 53784 of 2021; by the Supreme Court, in a matter presided by the Division Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice B.R. Gavai. The Bench stated the conditions of the bail as follows:

“The applicant is directed to be released on bail, subject to the satisfaction of the Designated Special TADA Court, Chennai. In addition, the applicant shall report to the Jolarpet Police Station, in the 1st week of every month. He shall not leave the State without seeking permission of this Court.”

The Court will hear the contentions in the Perarivalan’s Special Leave (Criminal) Petition no. 10039 of 2016 on April 27, 2022.

The Supreme Court Order may be read here:

Related:

Ishrat Jahan, fiery activist moves court for bail: UAPA Case
When rights weigh down laws and bail is granted
Genesis of Rights against handcuffs in India

SC grants bail to A.G. Perarivalan convicted for aiding Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination

His application was considered since he had spent more than 32 years in prison with a history of good conduct

A G PerarivalanImage Courtesy:indianexpress.com

A.G. Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts serving a life sentence in connection with the May 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was granted bail by a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai. The Bench took into consideration that the applicant has spent over 30 years of his life in prison. He has been lodged in Chennai’s Puzhal Central Prison for nearly 32 years.

Who is Perarivalan?

AG Perarivalan, or Arivu as he is also known, is the son of Tamil poet Kuyildasan. He was born on 30 July 1971 in Jolarpet, Tamil Nadu. He was 19 years old living in Chennai at the time of assassination and had just completed a diploma in electronics and communication. He completed his bachelor of computer applications and master of computer applications degrees through the Indira Gandhi National Open University while serving his sentence in prison. 

The Arrest and Conviction

Perarivalan, was arrested on June 11, 1991, and was accused of having procured a set of 9V batteries for Sivarasan (the LTTE operative who masterminded the conspiracy). These batteries were used to build the bomb that was packed into the vest of the Gandhi’s assassin, a suicide bomber named Dhanu, who wore it to his rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, on the evening of May 21, 1991.

The CBI filed a case against 41 people, including Perarivalan in 1998, under the now repealed Terrorism And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). Later in 1998, a trial court convicted Perarivalan along with 25 others and sentenced them to death. On an appeal to the Supreme Court of India, only 7 were sent to the death row and 19 accused got acquitted.

Twist and Turns

In 2013, Perarivalan’s case took a turn after V. Thiagarajan, a former superintendent of police in the CBI, admitted to having altered his confession. Thiagarajan told documentary-makers from the People’s Movement Against Death Penalty, an organisation founded by the late Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer, that he did not take down his statement verbatim.

“Arivu told me that he did not know why they asked him to buy that [the battery]. But I did not record that in the confessional statement. Then the investigation was in progress, so that particular statement I did not record. Strictly speaking, law expects you to record a statement verbatim… we don’t do that in practice,” Thiagarajan  had said, as quoted in a report in The Hindu. 

Perarivalan remained on death row until 2014, when the Supreme Court in its Judgement dated February 18, 2014 commuted his sentence as well as those of two others to life imprisonment on account of 11-year delay on the part of the President to respond to their mercy petition.

Before passing of the September 2018 Order by Supreme Court, V. Thiagarajan, a former superintendent of police in the CBI, submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court in the year 2017, stating that Perarivalan was “totally in the dark as to the purpose for which the batteries were purchased.”

Mercy plea

Perarivalan had told the court that he had filed his mercy plea before then Governor K Rosaiah on December 30, 2015. The question of remission of his sentence remains pending due to the larger question of which authority can actually consider the petition - the Tamil Nadu Governor or the President.

Special Leave Petition

Perarivalan had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court in 2016 against the refusal of Madras High Court to entertain his plea for seeking commutation of sentence.

In the order passed on September 6, 2018, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Navin Sinha and K M Joseph had noted that Perarivalan had filed an application before the Governor under Article 161, and that “the authority concerned will be at liberty to decide the said application as deemed fit.” The Petition is kept pending to decide the larger issue relating to the appropriate authority to decide the matter of remission – Governor or President.

Following the Supreme Court’s order, the state Cabinet had decided on September 9, 2018, to recommend to the then Governor (BL Purohit) to remit sentences of all seven convicts serving life terms in the case, including Perarivalan. This recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu State Government for remission of the sentence had been pending before the Governor for 2 years.

On January 22, 2021, the Supreme Court asked the Governor to decide the Petitioner’s application for remission. On February 4, 2021, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that the Tamil Nadu Governor has proposed that the President of India was the competent authority to deal with the request of remission of sentence in case of AG Perarivalan.

Senior Advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan is representing Perarivalan in the Special Leave Petition no. 10039 of 2016 filed before the Supreme Court. While making his submissions, the advocate brought it to the Court’s notice that the mercy petition was filed before the Governor in December 2015 which was noted by the Constitution bench; and also that in September 2018, the State Government made a recommendation to the Governor to tender pardon to Perarivalan. However the Governor kept the matter pending.

The advocate made further submissions stating that Perarivalan had been granted Parole twice and was also on parole at that time. There were no complaints of his conduct during his release. He further submitted that Perarivalan had acquired his educational qualifications while serving his death sentence.

The Supreme Court, on hearing the stand of the Union of India that the State Government does not have the power to entertain a mercy petition under Article 161 of the Constitution of India, even after the death sentence of the applicant is commuted to life imprisonment, felt the matter needs to be heard.

 The Supreme Court, upon considering the applicant’s behaviour during his long incarceration in the jail, his educational qualifications acquired during his sentence, ill health and also that he had already spent more than 30 years of life in prison, decided to release the applicant on bail.

Supreme Court held that:

“There is sufficient material that has been produced on behalf of the applicant about his conduct during his long incarceration in jail, acquisition of educational qualifications and his ill health. Taking into account the fact that the applicant has already spent more than 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 Mr. K.M. Nataraj, learned Additional Solicitor General.”

Perarivalan was released on bail as per an Order dated March 9, in an Interim Application no. 53784 of 2021; by the Supreme Court, in a matter presided by the Division Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice B.R. Gavai. The Bench stated the conditions of the bail as follows:

“The applicant is directed to be released on bail, subject to the satisfaction of the Designated Special TADA Court, Chennai. In addition, the applicant shall report to the Jolarpet Police Station, in the 1st week of every month. He shall not leave the State without seeking permission of this Court.”

The Court will hear the contentions in the Perarivalan’s Special Leave (Criminal) Petition no. 10039 of 2016 on April 27, 2022.

The Supreme Court Order may be read here:

Related:

Ishrat Jahan, fiery activist moves court for bail: UAPA Case
When rights weigh down laws and bail is granted
Genesis of Rights against handcuffs in India

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