The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release of A G Perarivalan, who has served over 30 years of life term in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. A Bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao invoked its extraordinary power under Article 142 to grant relief to Perarivalan.
The development was received with great jubilation by his family, relatives and several pro-Tamil outfits in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.
“The state Cabinet had taken its decision based on relevant considerations. In exercise of Article 142, it is appropriate to release the convict,” the Bench said. Article 142 deals with enforcement of decrees and orders of the Supreme Court and orders as to discovery, etc.
On March 9, the top court had granted bail to Perarivalan while taking note of his long incarceration and no history of complaints when out on parole.
The top court was hearing the plea of the 47-year-old Perarivalan seeking suspension of his life sentence in the case till the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency probe is completed.
Rajiv 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.
In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts — Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and S Nalini.
On February 18, 2014, the top court had commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment, along with that of two other prisoners — Santhan and Murugan — on grounds of an 11-year delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.
Meanwhile, hours after the apex court ordered his release, Perarivalan said, “I firmly believe there is no need for capital punishment.” Initially handed capital punishment by a special court in Chennai which was later commuted to life term, Perarivalan said he first wants to “breathe,” apparently the air of freedom, before thinking about his future.
“I have just come out. It has been 31 years of legal battle. I have to breathe a bit. Give me some time,” he said when reporters asked how did he feel as a “free bird” and what were his future plans.
“I clearly believe there is no need for capital punishment. Not just for mercy…many justices including Supreme Court chief justices have said so and there are many examples. Everybody is human,” he said, with his mother Arputhammal and relatives by his side.
“Many unknown people have supported us. I don’t know many people. I thank all of them,” an emotional Arputhammal said while recalling the “31-year battle” her son endured.