The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release of AG Perarivalan, convict serving life imprisonment in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, while invoking its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution.
Article 142 of the Constitution allows the Supreme Court to pass any order necessary to do complete justice in any case or matter pending before it.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai said that the State cabinet's decision is always binding the Governor.
It had said that the Tamil Nadu Governor was bound by the aid and advice given by the Tamil Nadu Council of Ministers under Article 161 of the Constitution, on the release of AG Perarivalan.
Perarivalan had sought a premature release from jail based on the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu government in September 2018.
The apex court in its judgement held that the decision of the Governor to refer the mercy plea of Perarivalan to the President of India has no constitutional backing.
The top court, while releasing Perarivalan, took into consideration his good conduct in jail, medical condition, educational qualifications (he acquired while in custody) and the pendency of his mercy plea with the Tamil Nadu Governor.
It also said that the inordinate delay in deciding Perarivalan's early release plea by the Governor under Article 161 also warranted his release.
Perarivalan has spent more than 30 years in jail.
During the hearing, the bench disagreed with the Central government's suggestion that it (court) should wait till the President's decision on Perarivalan's mercy plea.
The bench had said, "We will pass the order to release him from jail as you are not ready to argue the case on merits. We cannot shut our eyes to something that is happening against the Constitution and will have to go by the Bible which is the Constitution. There is nobody above law. There are certain powers conferred to dignitaries, but the working of the Constitution should not come to a grinding halt."
Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to clarify its position on the release of AG Perarivalan and also pulled up the Central government saying that it "will release" Perarivalan if the government does not take a stand on the convict's mercy plea within a week.
The apex court took a strong exception to the action of Tamil Nadu Governor for sitting of the Cabinet's release recommendation for more than three and half years and then forwarding it to the President.
On March 9, the apex court granted bail to Perarivalan while taking into consideration his conduct, ill health and the fact that he has spent more than 30 years in prison. The bench had noted that there were no complaints about his conduct when he was released thrice before on parole.
The bench had taken into note that Governor is yet to decide on Perarivalan's plea seeking release from prison. The apex court had granted bail to Perarivalan despite the Centre opposing it vehemently.
After considering all the facts on record and relevant documents, the Central government had earlier apprised the apex court that the Tamil Nadu Governor said that the President of India is the "appropriate competent authority" to deal with the pardon plea of Perarivalan.
Gandhi was assassinated on the night of 21 May 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at a poll rally.
Nineteen-year-old, at the time of the assassination, Perarivalan was accused of buying the two 9-volt batteries for Sivarasan, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) man who masterminded the assassination. The batteries were used in the bomb to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi.
On 18 February 2014, the apex court commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment on grounds of an 11-year delay in deciding the mercy plea by the Centre. (ANI)