Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: Supreme Court dismisses plea of convict

Mar 14, 2018, 20:33 IST | PTI

The Supreme Court dismissed a plea of one of the convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case seeking recall of the May 1999 verdict upholding his conviction

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The Supreme Court today dismissed a plea of one of the convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case seeking recall of the May 1999 verdict upholding his conviction. The apex court said the materials brought on record before it does not inspire confidence to interfere with the May 11, 1999 verdict in which 45-year-old A G Perarivalan and three others were initially awarded death sentence which was later commuted to life term. A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, R Banumathi and M M Shantanagoudar, however, kept the main petition of Perarivalan pending in which he has sought suspension of his life sentence in the case till the completion of the probe by CBI-led Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) into the larger conspiracy behind the assassination.

The bench asked the MDMA to file a status report in four weeks with regard to the status of a Letter Rogatory sent to Sri Lanka for examining one of the accused Nixon alias Suren, who is lodged in Colombo jail. During the hearing, the CBI sought dismissal of the plea filed by Perarivalan seeking recall of the May 1999 verdict upholding his conviction, saying it was not "maintainable" and his role in the conspiracy was "clearly established". Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for CBI, said Perarivalan's application for recall of the verdict was "devoid of merit" and is liable to be dismissed at the threshold with heavy cost. Anand said that his role was not limited to procuring nine-volt batteries alone, which were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that had killed Gandhi. "He had even visited Jaffna in Sri Lanka in the first week of June 1990, besides attending a public meeting along with other conspirators which was addressed by former Prime Minister V P Singh on May 7, 1991 in Tamil Nadu," she said.

Anand said that even if the part of the confessional statement of Perarivalan recorded under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act by former CBI official V Thiagarajan is taken out, there are enough material to suggest that he was an active conspirator in the assassination. Advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, appearing for Perarivalan, said the knowledge and intent were the two key points attributed to his client which may not be correct and all aspects have to be looked into in entirety. He said Perarivalan was just 19-year-old when the incident had taken place and had no knowledge of what he was doing and for what purpose batteries were purchased.

To this, the bench said "the soul of your conviction is the confessional statement which is admissable under TADA. If you have materials to suggest otherwise, then you satisfy us". Shankarnarayanan replied he was in the know of the conspiracy but did not know for what purpose the batteries were asked to be bought. "When we look into the entire facts and circumstances, we find that he (Prerivalan) was an engineer in electronics, knew the purpose for which batteries were used, was part of a conspiracy to attack Vellore Fort, had common hatred towards one person and had openly accepted that he was a member of LTTE. Was all this not sufficient for the court to arrive at a conclusion," the top court asked.

Shankarnarayanan said the batteries were purchased on May 7, 1991 while the incident had taken place on May 21, 1991 and "was it not odd that entire explosive belt was sent from Sri Lanka except the two batteries". The bench was not satisfied with the answer and said that the evidence brought on record was enough to draw an inference by the court for the charge of conspiracy against Perarivalan. Former prime minister 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. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed. Gandhi's assassination was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile leader.

In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts -- Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and Nalini -- in the assassination case. In April 2000, the Tamil Nadu governor had commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the basis of state government's recommendation and an appeal by former Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia Gandhi. 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 a delay of 11 years in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre. The MDMA, set up in 1998 on the recommendations of Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry which had probed the conspiracy aspect of Gandhi's assassination, is headed by a CBI official and comprises officers from IB, RAW and Revenue Intelligence and other agencies.

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