Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government on Sunday recommended to Governor Banwarilal Purohit the release of seven convicts in the assassination case of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The recommendation will be sent to the governor immediately, said D Jayakumar, Tamil Nadu minister, after a cabinet meeting in Chennai. The recommendation for the remission of all the convicts could be done under the provisions of Article 161 of the Indian Constitution, he said.
“The governor is the executive authority of the state and he will execute the decision of the government," added Jayakumar after the Cabinet meet that lasted nearly two hours.
A. G. Perarivalan alias Arivu, V. Sriharan alias Murugan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, P. Ravichandaran and Nalini have been in jail for 27 years.
Opposition leader and president of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) M K Stalin said the governor should immediately order the release of seven convicts.
This development comes after the Supreme Court on Thursday observed that the Tamil Nadu governor could take a decision on the mercy petition of 47-year-old Perarivalan, a convict in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Naveen Sinha and K.M. Joseph disposed of the Union government’s writ petition filed in 2014 opposing the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release all the seven convicts.
Last month, the Centre had informed the apex court that it did not agree with the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to release the seven convicts. It had stated that the remission of their sentence would set a “dangerous precedent" and have “international ramifications".
Following this, Perarivalan told the court that no decision had been taken as yet on his mercy petition filed before the governor of Tamil Nadu on 30 December, 2015, under Article 161 of the Constitution, which allows governors to grant pardons and suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
In 1999, the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentences of Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini, while commuting the sentence of three others to life imprisonment. A year later, based on the recommendations of the Tamil Nadu government and an appeal by Rajiv Gandhi’s wife and then Congress president Sonia Gandhi the governor commuted the death sentence of Nalini.
The death sentence of the remaining three convicts were commuted in February 2014 by the top court, citing a delay in deciding the mercy petitions and mentioning that successive Indian presidents had taken 11 years to decide their pleas for mercy against execution.