Crime & Justice

India’s top court orders release of convict in ex-PM assassination case

New Delhi, May 18 (EFE).- The top Indian court Wednesday ordered the release of a convict in the 1991 assassination of ex-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in a suicide bombing at a public meeting in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The release order for AG Perarivalan, 50, came just three days short of the 31st death anniversary of Gandhi, a Nehru-Gandhi scion, killed by a woman suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The militant group fought for decades for a separate state in north Sri Lanka before the armed forces annihilated its leadership in a controversial but decisive war in 2009.

The bombing in Sriperumbudur of Tamil Nadu killed 16 persons, including Gandhi and the suicide bomber.

Perarivalan was 19 when police arrested him in June 1991 for providing two nine-volt batteries used in the explosive to kill Gandhi.

He was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to death a year later, commuted to life imprisonment in 2014.

The Supreme Court decision ended a lengthy legal tussle between the Tamil Nadu state and the federal government over who had the authority to decide a prisoner pardon.

The state government, on several occasions, sought the release of Perarivalan and the rest of the convicts, recommending the clemency plea to the regional governor.

In India, regional governors like the president can grant pardons to convicts on the recommendations of the state governments.

A Supreme Court bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao rejected the central government’s plea that only the Indian president had the power to pardon convicts.

The court invoked its extraordinary powers to do complete justice granted under Article 142 to release Perarivalan.

Perarivalan, currently on bail since March, received the news of his release at his home.

He told the media that “honesty” was what gave him and his mother, Arputhammal, the strength in a three-decade battle for justice.

“She has faced lots of humiliations, insult, and pain over these years. Despite that, she has fought for justice for 31 years,” local media quoted Perarivalan as telling reporters outside his home in Jolarpettai of Tamil Nadu.

“The honesty in (this) case was what gave both of us the strength to fight this battle. The verdict is a victory for her struggle.”

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin congratulated Perarivalan for finally being free.

“Even as the judgement is historic on human rights and humanitarian grounds, the order has also established the state’s rights in a majestic manner by the apex court,” the chief minister told reporters.

“The governor has no right to interfere in the state government’s decisions. It is a key part of the judgment. The judges have also said the court will interfere when the governor is dysfunctional. At the same time, the court has also clarified that there was no need for consent from the center in this issue.’’ EFE


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