Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: Perarivalan free after 3-decade legal fight
Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: AG Perarivalan was 19 when he was arrested for buying two 9-volt batteries, which were used in the bomb in the 1991 assassination.
Chennai: More than three decades after he was imprisoned in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, life convict AG Perarivalan was set to walk free on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ordered his release. The top court order to release Perarivalan comes after a long-winded legal battle. Besides lawyers and Tamil Nadu politicians fighting his cause, his septuagenarian mother Arputham Ammal has flown across the country to meet every leader possible to help in the release of her son.
Perarivalan was 19 when he was arrested for buying two 9-volt batteries, which were used in the bomb in the 1991 assassination. He has since said that he was unaware of the purpose for which he was buying the batteries, and has consistently maintained his innocence. Over the years, his release seemed imminent several times but always seemed to elude him.
However, the first step to him walking free came on March 9 this year, when the Supreme Court granted him bail – up to this point, he had only been out on parole, and was in fact on his third parole to undergo medical treatment for various illnesses he had developed when the bail order had come.
While in jail, Perarivalan completed a BCA and then an MCA and five certificate courses. He also wrote a book, ‘Thooku kottatadiyiliruthu oru muraiyeetu madal’ (‘A letter from the gallows’), arguing the case for his innocence.
After observing in a previous hearing that Perarivalan’s conduct in jail was good, and that he was being discriminated against under Article 14 of the Constitution (right to equality), a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai granted him bail.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur by a woman suicide bomber belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A total of 14 people were killed in the suicide bombing.
Though initially awarded the death penalty, Perarivalan’s sentence was in February 2014 commuted to life in prison.
In October 2017, former CBI officer V Thiagarajan, who recorded Perarivalan’s statement in 1991, told the Supreme Court that he had omitted the part of his statement where he said he was not aware of the purpose for which he bought the batteries.
KT Thomas, one of the Supreme Court judges who was part of the bench that sentenced Perarivalan among others to death – wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi – Rajiv Gandhi’s widow -- noting that the CBI’s investigation had several flaws.
Perarivalan’s release, along with that of six other convicts in the case, has been a major electoral and emotive issue which has dominated Tamil Nadu politics for three decades. While the majority of public sentiment has been sympathetic towards the release of the convicts, the families of those who lost their lives in the bomb blast have been against their release.
In 2018, the Tamil Nadu cabinet unanimously passed a resolution for the release of all seven convicts and sent it to then Governor Banwarilal Purohit. But after three years, the governor declined to take a decision and forwarded it to the President of India, stating that the latter was the right authority to take the decision.
- Rajiv Gandhi