By Adv. CK George
Perarivalan alias Arivu convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case was released by the Honourable Supreme Court on May 18, 2022 invoking its extra-ordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to do complete justice.
The Supreme Court’s bench led by Justice L Nageshwara Rao in its judgment took into consideration his long incarceration for 30 years for ordering his release.
He was arrested on June 11, 1991 in connection with the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991, when he was only 19 years old.
He was one of the six persons convicted in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination on charges of murder and conspiracy.
Arivu was employed by Bhagyanathan, who ran a printing press in Chennai for Baby Subramamniam, a high-ranking LTTE leader.
Arivu just obeyed the instructions of Bhagyanathan, his employer. Bhagyanathan was acquitted by the Supreme Court and his employee was sentenced for death punishment.
If at all the purchase of a pair of 9-Volt batteries was a heinous crime, Bhagyanathan would have convicted. It is a case of converting the accused into accuser and award capital punishment to an innocent young man of 19-years old for no fault of his.
Three overt acts attributed to Perarivalan were: (1) he bought a motor-cycle for Raghuvaran alias Sivarasan (whose actual name was Packiachandran,(2) a 12-Volt car battery that was used to power a wireless set and (3) a pair of 9-Volt battery that were used in the belt bomb which assassin Dhanu triggered to kill Rajiv Gandhi in which several others including nine policemen were killed.
During the trial and appeal hearing the portion of his confessional statement relating to the purpose of the battery was treated as evidence.
The defence counsel Senior Advocate, N Natarajan argued that this was the battery used in the explosive device was “knowledge derived after the event”. But the Honourable Supreme Court rejected the argument without quarter.
Many years later that a Superintendent of Police who recorded Perarivalan’s statement made a startling admission that he had left out the “exculpatory portion” of what Arivu had said that he purchased the batteries but was unaware that it was going to be used in a bomb.
This revelation by the Superintendent of Police has led to a widespread impression that Perarivalan was innocent.
As Perarivalan was not aware of what purpose the battery would be used, he had no intention in committing the murder of Rajiv Gandhi.
It is one of the main principles of the criminal law that a crime is not committed if the mind of the person doing the act in question be innocent.
The knowledge of the fact is also an essential ingredient of an offence. It must be distinctly proved. It is proved beyond doubt that Perarivalan had no intention and knowledge of the use of the battery was for killing Rajiv Gandhi.
The trial court had convicted Perarivalan and awarded capital punishment in 1998.
The supreme Court had upheld it in 1999. The Honourable Supreme Court had commutted his death penalty to life imprisonment in 2014 taking into account of the delay in considering his mercy petition.
In the similar sensational Indian space Research Organization (ISRO) espionage case, the Honourable Supreme Court had directed the Kerala Government to pay a compensation of Rs 50 (Fifty-lakh rupees only) to Nambi Narayanan for the ignominy, sufferings and stigma he had suffered in connection with the espionage in 1994. In this case, the well-known space scientist Nambi Narayanan was arrested and imprisoned for no fault of his. It was for the fault of the police officers that the scientist suffered a lot.
The case, initially, pursued by the Kerala police and it was transferred to the CBI on December 04, 1994 on State Government’s reference. In its closure report, the CBI had submitted that the espionage charge against the scientists at the ISRO was not proved and was found false. The findings of the CBI were accepted by the supreme court.
The apex court had directed on 18-04-2021 the CBI to study the Justice DK Jain Committee report on the senior police officers of Kerala who allegedly framed Nambi Narayanan in the ISRO espionage case in 1994.
In Perarivalan’s case, a Superintendent of Police had left out the “exculpatory portion” of the confessional statement which Arivu had said “He purchased the batteries and was unaware of the purpose for which the battery would be used.
Following the revelation of the Superintendent of Police, it was proved that Perarivalan was not known of the use of the battery. The admission of the police officer should be treated as corroborative evidence and completely free Perarivalan from all the charge of murder and
conspiracy and declare him as innocent.
It would be quite appropriate for the Tamil Nadu Government to come to the succour of the innocent Perarivalan who have undergone about 31 years of rigorous imprisonment, by providing a reasonable amount of compensation and gainful Government employment.
It would be impossible for the mother of Perarivalan to approach law courts for the redressal of her son’s grievances, as she is tired mentally and physically for getting released Perarivalan besides she could not bear the financial burden for another litigation.
Nobody under the circumstance, would provide employment to Perarivalan as he was literally ostracized now in the name of conviction of murder.
It would be worth treating for the State and Central Governments to treat his case On humanitarian consideration in spite of all other things.
* By Former PTI Reporter Adv. CK George