Outrage from India’s Congress party as top court releases Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination convict from prison

A prisoner who was convicted over the assassination of India’s former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was ordered to be released after 31 years by the country’s Supreme Court.

The case has highlighted the “humiliations, insult and pain” faced by his mother who had fought for his release for decades.

AG Perarivalan had been in jail for 31 years and was 19 years old when he was arrested in 1991. The top court on Wednesday ordered Perarivalan’s release on a plea by the Tamil Nadu state government.

Perarivalan was arrested for buying batteries for a bomb used to assassinate former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu in 1991.

He had initially been given the death penalty, but this sentence was later commuted to life.

Hours after the verdict, Perarivalan addressed the media outside his home and said “honesty” was what gave him and his mother Arputhammal the strength to fight for so long.

“She has faced lots of humiliations, insult and pain over these years. Despite that, she has fought for justice for 31 years. The honesty in [this] case was what gave both of us the strength to fight this battle. The verdict is a victory for her struggle,” he said.

Arputhammal spoke to the media after the court’s order as well.

“Only if we sit and think we will know the pain of a person who has spent 31 years behind bar. My son has overcome that now,” she said.

“I would like to thank [Tamil Nadu chief minister] MK Stalin. I would also like to thank all the leaders, and everyone who supported us and our struggle,” she added.

Even though several political parties across the country welcomed the court’s order, the Indian National Congress party, which has been run by the Gandhi family for decades, expressed displeasure over Perarivalan’s release.

Tamil Nadu Congress committee president KS Alagiri tweeted: “Seven of the killers who killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were convicted by the Supreme Court of being the killers. The same Supreme Court has acquitted Perarivalan on some legal grounds.”

“We do not want to criticise the judgment of the Supreme Court. At the same time, we want to emphasise that the perpetrators are murderers and that they are not innocent.”

Political commentators, however, have said that with Perarivalan’s release, the Supreme Court has “undone long-standing miscarriage of justice.”

Many pointed out that Perarivalan was “wrongly sentenced to death” and, accused the federal government of political hesitancy in urging for his release.

The top court had earlier granted bail to Perarivalan on 9 March while taking note of his long incarceration and good behaviour when out on parole. He was granted parole thrice.

The convict had been out of jail since then, but Wednesday’s court order from the top court bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai invoked powers under Article 142 of the Indian constitution to give him relief from the case he was convicted under.

Article 142 empowers the top court to exercise its jurisdiction and pass a decree or order “for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it”, stated news portal The Wire.

“State cabinet had taken its decision based on relevant considerations. In exercise of Article 142, it is appropriate to release the convict,” the court said in its order.

Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.