NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, said it would hear A G Perarivalan's plea seeking the grant of parole after three weeks. Perarivalan is serving life sentence for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
A vacation bench of justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari noted that Perarivalan's lawyer had circulated a letter seeking adjournment of hearing in the case. "There is a letter (for adjournment). List (it) after three weeks before an appropriate bench," the bench said in its order.
Based on the recommendations of Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry which had probed the conspiracy aspect of Gandhi's assassination, a Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) was set up in 1998. The Jain Committee required MDMA to carry out monitoring/tracking of absconding suspects and the role of Sri Lankan and Indian nationals in the case.
The Supreme court is hearing the plea of 47-year-old Perarivalan seeking suspension of his life sentence until the MDMA probe is completed.
On November 3 last year, the top court had expressed unhappiness over the pendency of a plea by a convict seeking pardon in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case for over two years with the Tamil Nadu Governor.
The top court asked the petitioner's counsel whether the court can exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution to request the Governor to decide his plea of pardon filed under Article 161. "We don't want to exercise our jurisdiction at this stage, but we are not happy that a recommendation made by the government is pending for two years," the top court said.
The Tamil Nadu state cabinet earlier, on September 9, 2018, had passed a resolution recommending to the Governor for the premature release of all seven convicts in the case.
Responding to the Supreme Court, CBI said that it is for the Tamil Nadu Governor to take a call on whether remission is to be granted or not and in so far as the relief is concerned, the probe agency has no role.
"Present petitioner is not the subject matter of the further investigation carried out by MDMA. (Therefore,) the further investigation conducted by MDMA is only limited to the mandate provided to it by the Jain Commission Report," said the central agency in its 24-page affidavit.
The CBI further said that the top court had already, on March 14, 2018, dismissed an application by Perarivalan for recall of the May 11, 1999 verdict of the top court, holding him guilty in the case.
It said that the claim of the petitioner that he is innocent and did not have knowledge about the conspiracy to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi is neither acceptable nor maintainable.
The CBI, also in its affidavit, said that the material brought on record before it does not inspire confidence to interfere with the verdict in which Perarivalan and three others were initially awarded the death sentence, which was later commuted to life term.
Perarivalan's counsel had earlier said that Perarivalan was just 19-years-old when the incident occurred, and his role was only limited to procuring nine-volt batteries. He added that his client did not know what he was doing or that the batteries he purchased were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that killed Gandhi.
Later on November 23, 2020, the top court extended Perarivalan's parole by a week to undergo a medical check-up and directed the Tamil Nadu government to provide police escort during his visit to the hospital.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991, at a poll rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, by a woman suicide bomber identified as Dhanu. Fifteen people, including Dhanu, were killed in the blast.
Gandhi's assassination was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing, which had claimed the life of a high-profile leader.
In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts -- Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and Nalini.
In April 2000, the then Tamil Nadu Governor had commuted Nalini's death sentence based on the state government's recommendation and an appeal by Rajiv Gandhi's widow and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
On February 18, 2014, the top court had commuted Perarivalan's death sentence to life imprisonment, along with that of two other prisoners -- Santhan and Murugan -- on the grounds of an 11-year delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.