NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release of AG Perarivalan, a life-term convict in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination case.
The top court invoked its powers under Art 142 as his mercy plea kept shuttling between Governor and President.
“...In exercise of Article 142, it is appropriate to release the convict,” the top court has observed.
Article 142 provides a unique power to the Supreme Court, to do “complete justice” between parties, where at times law or statute may not provide a remedy. The Court can extend itself to end a dispute in a manner which would befit the facts of the case in such instances.
In the last few hearings, the Supreme Court had questioned why AG Perarivalan can't be released after having served a sentence of more than 30 years.
“Why don’t you just agree to have him released? People who have served over 20 years are released... Why don't you release him...? Why should Perarivalan be caught in the middle of who has the authority, President or Governor, to decide?" Justice L Nageswara Rao had said.
The top court had said why should he be caught in the crossfire over a legal issue on whose authority it is to grant remission.
The top court had orally remarked that prima facie the Governor forwarding the decision on remission of Perarivalan’s sentence made by the Tamil Nadu cabinet to the President would affect the federal structure of the constitution.
The top court on March 9 had granted him bail taking into account the fact that he has already spent more than 30 years in prison.
Timeline of Perarivalan case:
* Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, during an election campaign at Sriperumbudur.
* Poonamallee TADA Court awards death sentence to all 26 accused on January 28, 1998
* Later, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of three as life sentences and acquitted 19 others while upholding death sentences for Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.
* The four convicts went on an appeal and their petitions were dismissed by the SC on October 8, 1999.
* The State Cabinet meeting chaired by the then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi held on April 19, 2000, advised the Governor to commute the death sentence of the Nalini and uphold the death sentence of the other three.
* The Governor accepted the State Cabinet's advice on April 21, 2000, and confirmed the death sentence for Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.
* The DMK government forwarded the mercy petitions of the three to the President on April 28, 2000.
* After 11 longs years, President rejected the mercy petitions of the three on August 12, 2011
* TN Assembly, on August 30, 2011, adopted a resolution moved by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa requesting the President to commute the death sentence of the three convicted.
* The Centre put into the backburner the resolution adopted by Tamil Nadu Assembly for more than two and half years.
* The SC, on January 21, 2014, commuted the death sentence of 15 persons including four aides of forest brigand Veerappan stating that there has been a delay in deciding their mercy petitions, thus giving a ray of hope for the Rajiv case convicted.
* The Supreme Court, on February 18, 2014, commuted the death sentence of three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and said the Tamil Nadu government can exercise its remission powers under Section 432 and 433 Cr. P.C to release the convicted.
* Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa chairs TN Cabinet’s emergency meeting on February 19, 2014, and decides to release all the seven convicted in the Rajiv assassination case. She told the House that if the Centre fails to respond to the Tamil Nadu Cabinet’s decision within three days, the State government would go ahead and release them as per Section 432 of the CrPC. However, the then UPA government at the Centre had moved the SC against the decision, and thus a solution to this issue dragged on.
*February 2014 - The Supreme Court stayed the release of all seven convicts as announced by Jayalalithaa and directed the State government to maintain the status quo.
* On March 2, 2016, the AIADMK government decided to release all the seven convicts and sought the views of the Centre on the decision
*June 15, 2018: President Ram Nath Kovind rejected the State government's plea to release the seven convicts
*September 9, 2018: The AIADMK government recommends to Governor Banwarilal Purohit the release of all seven convicts
*March 20, 2020: Nearly after 18 months after the State Cabinet recommended the release of seven convicts, the Governor said a decision on the release of these convicts could be taken based on the report to be submitted to the Supreme Court by the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) which is probing the conspiracy angle of the assassination.
*May 20, 2021: Chief Minister MK Stalin urges President Ram Nath Kovind to accept the State government's recommendation made in 2018 for the release of the seven convicts and pass orders to remit the sentences of all these convicts and also release them immediately.
*April 27, 2022: SC asks Centre why can't Perarivalan be released
*May 18: SC orders release of Perarivalan invoking Article 142 of the Constitution.