Rajiv Gandhi assassination: SC asks CBI to respond to Perarivalan's plea seeking reversal of conviction

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to respond to a plea filed by a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, seeking recall of the apex court's May 1999 order upholding his conviction on the ground that he was not aware of the conspiracy.

A bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi asked the probe agency to file its response to the application filed by convict AG Perarivalan within three weeks and posted the matter for hearing for 21 February. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on the night of 21 May 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at an election rally. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed.

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1993. Reuters

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in May 1991. Reuters

Perarivalan had earlier told the court that he was held guilty of supplying two nine-volt batteries which were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that killed Gandhi.

In his application, Perarivalan referred to an affidavit filed by V Thiagarajan, then superintendent of police of CBI who had recorded his confessional statement under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.

The application said the former CBI officer had in his affidavit stated that Perarivalan, in his confessional statement, had expressly stated that at the time of the purchase of batteries, he had absolutely no idea for what purpose these were going to be used.

In its May 1999 order, the apex court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts — Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and Nalini in the former prime minister's assassination case. However, in April 2000, the Tamil Nadu governor commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the basis of the state government's recommendation and an appeal by former Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

On 18 February, 2014, the top court commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment, along that of two other condemned prisoners — Santhan and Murugan — on grounds of a delay of 11 years in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre. Gandhi's assassination was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile global leader.

During the hearing on Wednesday, advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, representing Perarivalan told the court that he has filed the application seeking recall of the 1999 judgment by the top court and the CBI should respond to it. In his application, Perarivalan has said that he is languishing in jail for the past 26 years.

It said the facts in CBI SP Thiagarajan's affidavit, "as it stands today, will in any case go to the root of the matter and will remove the very basis of the conviction of the applicant in the conviction judgement, the applicant seeks for appropriate direction in this regard".

It further claimed that the affidavit by the officer will "completely wipe out" the guilt of Perarivalan and his purported knowledge about the alleged conspiracy to assassinate the former Prime Minister.

The apex court had asked the Centre to take a decision within three months on a 2016 letter by Tamil Nadu government seeking its concurrence on releasing seven convicts in the assassination case. The letter written on 2 March, 2016, had said that while the state government has already decided to release the seven convicts, it is necessary to seek the Centre's concurrence as per an apex court order of 2015.

While hearing Perarivalan's plea earlier, the top court had observed that the probe by CBI's Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) in the larger conspiracy aspect behind Gandhi's assassination does not appear to have achieved "much headway" and could be "endless".

MDMA, set up in 1998 at the recommendations of Justice MC 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.

Updated Date: Jan 24, 2018 16:38 PM

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