BENGALURU: As Perarivalan walks to freedom, RTI activist Dr SS Venkatesh Nayak, Director (incharge), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, celebrates quietly. Nayak, who helped Perarivalan’s mother Arputhammal, recalled how a shattered Perarivalan, his mother and a team of lawyers would meet him, requesting for help.
“Perarivalan was convicted for conspiring to assassinate late PM Rajiv Gandhi. He was initially sentenced to death with others. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence in May 1999, after which he filed a mercy petition before the President. The government did not respond for more than 11 years, and then rejected the mercy petitions in August 2011. Soon after, his lawyers contacted me for assistance with the RTI case, to get hold of file notings and correspondence regarding mercy petitions. So I helped them file a complaint with the Central Information Commissioner, seeking urgent hearing on humanitarian grounds."
The Commissioner called for files and directed disclosure of papers, minus the names of officers involved in the decisionmaking process, and actual advice tendered by Union Home Minister to the President on action to be taken on the mercy petition.
More than 500 pages of documents were released quickly in September-October 2011, and were used to show the extraordinary delay in deciding the mercy petition.
The SC agreed that this was an unreasonable delay and commuted death sentence to life imprisonment in 2014, Nayak said.
He recalled the documents they procured through RTI, including the TN government’s communication to IGP Prisons about rejection of the mercy petition, CIC’s decision directing disclosure of documents, and the Supreme Court judgment which commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment.