New Delhi [India], May 4 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday disagreed with the Central government’s suggestion that the court should wait till the President’s decision on the mercy plea of AG Perarivalan, one of the convicts serving life imprisonment in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai also disapproved of the Governor’s action of sending the mercy plea of Perarivalan to the President saying it cannot shut eyes to something against the Constitution.
It said the Tamil Nadu Governor was bound by the aid and advice given by the Tamil Nadu Council of Ministers under Article 161 of the Constitution, on the release of AG Perarivalan.
The bench said, “We will pass the order to release him from jail as you are not ready to argue the case on merits. We cannot shut our eyes to something that is happening against the Constitution and will have to go by the Bible which is the Constitution. There is nobody above law. There are certain powers conferred to dignitaries, but the working of the Constitution should not come to a grinding halt.”
“It is a matter to be decided by the court, the decision of the Governor was not even needed, he is bound by the decision of the council of ministers. We will have to look into this,” the bench said.
The apex court refused to agree with Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, suggesting that the court should wait till the President decides on the issue.
When Natraj said that the file on mercy petition has been referred by the Governor to the President, the apex court said, “If the President refers it (mercy plea) back to the Governor, there is no need to discuss this issue at all… The President himself will decide if the Governor could have referred the file to him or not. Whether the reference is right or not, that call must be taken by the President first.”
The bench also declined to accept the submission of the ASG that the file of the mercy plea recently came to them and said there had been ample time for the Centre to return the mercy plea file to the Governor.
“The Governor decided to send the file to the President on January 27, 2021… It is May 5, 2022 today. And you are saying it came to you only recently? This is a matter concerning personal liberty,” it said.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for Perarivalan, said every time the Governor came up with an “excuse” not to decide the issue.
Nataraj objected to the statement of Shankarnarayan saying a convict could not criticise the Governor for his actions.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to clarify its position on the release of AG Perarivalan and also pulled up the Central government saying that it “will release” Perarivalan if the government does not take a stand on the convict’s mercy plea within a week.
The apex court took strong exception to the action of the Tamil Nadu Governor for sitting on the Cabinet’s release recommendation for more than three and half years and then forwarding it to the President.
On March 9, the apex court granted bail to Perarivalan while taking into consideration his conduct, ill health and the fact that he has spent more than 30 years in prison.
The bench had noted that there were no complaints about his conduct when he was released thrice before on parole.
Perarivalan was ordered to be released on bail for the first time since when he was arrested.
The bench had taken into note that Governor is yet to decide on Perarivalan’s plea seeking release from prison. The apex court had granted bail to Perarivalan despite the Centre opposing his bail plea vehemently.
Perarivalan had approached the top court seeking release from the prison based on the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu government in September 2018.
The Central government had earlier apprised the apex court that the Tamil Nadu Governor, after considering all the facts on record and relevant documents, said that the President of India is the “appropriate competent authority” to deal with the pardon plea of Perarivalan.
The top court by its January 21, 2021 order had asked the Governor to decide the Perarivalan’s remission of sentence plea.
It had earlier expressed unhappiness over the fact that the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu state government for the remission of the sentence had been pending before the Governor.
Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at a poll rally.
On February 18, 2014, the apex court commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment on grounds of a delay of 11 years in deciding the mercy pleas by the Centre. (ANI)