The verdict is more an indictment of the stubbornness of the Centre opposing a state in a federal setup
The Supreme Court invoked special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to set free Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A.G. Perarivalan. The ruling is no validation of his innocence, which the court of public opinion may believe had been established. The verdict is more an indictment of the stubbornness of the Centre opposing a state in a federal setup and using its plenipotentiaries as well as dilatory tactics to ensure its point of view prevails in executive action.
The convict, who escaped the noose as capital punishment originally ordered was commuted to life in jail, may have been on the periphery of the diabolical conspiracy to kill a former Prime Minister of the country. But by no means has his innocence been established even if his task in a big plot on foreign soil by Sri Lankan separatist militants was just to buy a couple of nine-volt batteries that may have been used in triggering the waist bomb of the suicide bomber assassin Dhanu.
Perarivalan was a model prisoner who even took a master’s degree while incarcerated for 31 years after having been ensnared into the conspiracy as a teenaged LTTE sympathiser who ran small chores for the movement in Sri Lanka. The cause celebre around him has done much towards bringing a new definition to the federal structure while upholding the right of a state to decide its own course on pardons or remission of sentences with regard to IPC 302.
The powers of the governor are circumscribed by such a verdict, which is to be welcomed because a governor appointed by the Centre to a state was never meant to be much more than ceremonial and tasked with conveying the wishes of the states, besides an observer’s role as a representative of the President of India. Ambiguities that have been creeping in may have been exploited through interpretations allowing the Centre’s views to prevail, failing which pinpricks through Raj Bhavans have been the norm.
The popular outcry in Tamil Nadu among the people and their political parties may not be construed as a blanket endorsement in the remaining cases, too, as the question of freeing the other six, including non-Indian citizens, may have to be assessed individually. The overwhelming argument in their cases would, however, be that they, too, have served more than their time, much as Perarivalan had done and it’s a period twice and over that of the standard 14 years for murder.
It’s in no one’s interest to disown the Centre’s view either, as an act of terror against such a high symbol of State as the Prime Minister of the land is not to be treated lightly. But, considering the passage of time in which the conspirators have recanted and the family of the slain have pardoned them, mercy might be a quality to consider when the cases of the six others come up. It’s a different matter that each and every issue is made to await judicial intervention even while the executive is either too obstinate or finds the need to take decisions too burdensome.