SC reserves verdict on Rajiv Gandhi killing convict Perarivalan’s plea

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on the plea of A.G. Perarivalan, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi, seeking premature release from jail after nearly 30 years imprisonment.

The Centre’s counsel supported the Tamil Nadu Governor’s decision to refer Perarivalan’s remission plea to the President, despite state government’s recommendation to release him.

A bench headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and A.S. Bopanna said if the Centre’s stand is accepted, then the Governor will refer all such matters to the President. “Wouldn’t it go against the federal structure?” it asked.

The Tamil Nadu government counsel argued that the Governor’s decision raised a serious problem, and the top court should intervene.

After hearing arguments of all parties in the matter, the top court reserved its order.

On May 4, the top court did not agree with the Centre’s submission that the court should wait for the President to take a call on Perarivalan’s plea.

The top court said that it will place the matter for hearing and the decision of the President would not have any bearing on it, and it will examine the issue raised by the petitioner.

The court had pointed out to the Centre’s counsel that the question was whether the Governor had the authority to refer the plea to the President. It noted that under Article 161 of the Constitution, the Governor was bound by the aid and advice given by the Tamil Nadu Council of Ministers.

In September 2018, the Council of Ministers of Tamil Nadu had recommended Perarivalan’s release, but the Governor had referred the plea to the President for a decision.

Citing Perarivalan’s good conduct in jail and several diseases which impact his health in prison, the bench said: “If you are not willing to consider these aspects, we will consider ordering his release.”

Perarivalan filed his plea before the Tamil Nadu Governor in December 2015 under Article 161, which deals with remission powers of the Governor. The top court, on April 9, granted bail to him.

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