Death Penalty Abolition Debate

Supreme Court frees Perarivalan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Various articles mentioned in news

Mains level: Death penalty

The Supreme Court has invoked its extraordinary powers to do complete justice under Article 142 of the Constitution and ordered the release of A.G. Perarivalan in former PM assassination case.

Among the factors that sustained Perarivalan’s long battle was the determination and commitment of his mother, Arputham Ammal, who emerged as the face of an anti-death penalty movement, and the sympathy and empathy that he received from people from all walks of life.

What is the news?

  • A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao, in its judgment, took into consideration Perarivalan’s long jail term for over 30 years to order his release.
  • The court held that the TN Council of Ministers’ advice to pardon Perarivalan was binding on the Governor under Article 161 (Governor’s power of clemency) of the Constitution.
  • The advice of the State Cabinet is binding on the Governor in matters relating to commutation/remission of sentences under Article 161.

Note: As per Article 161, the Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends

What branded Perarivalan as a murderer?

  • He had bought two 9 volt battery cells on behalf of the bomber.
  • These were used to make the bomb explode.
  • This confession statement taken under Section 15(1) of TADA to establish his link with the assassins and his knowledge and role in the assassination.

Why was this a case for Governor?

  • Perarivalan was not a death sentenced convict.
  • Earlier, the apex court had commuted his death penalty to life sentence for murder in 2014.
  • The Governor had no business forwarding the pardon plea to the President after sitting on it for years together.
  • Had this been a death penalty, the case would have been different.

Why did the Supreme Court intervene?

  • Governor’s delay to decide Perarivalan’s pardon for more than two years has compelled the apex court to employ its constitutional powers under Article 142 to do justice to Perarivalan.
  • After all, the court said, a Governor’s non-exercise of power under Article 161 of the Constitution was not immune from judicial review.

What is Article 142?

  • Article 142 provides discretionary power to the Supreme Court.
  • It states that the court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.
  • Such decree shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament.
  • It is usually used in cases involving human rights and environmental protection.

Other legal aspects of this pardon

  • The Court dismissed the Centre’s argument that the President exclusively, and not the Governor, had the power to grant pardon in a case under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
  • The court had said that such a contention would render Article 161 a “dead-letter”.
  • This would rather create an extraordinary situation whereby pardons granted by Governors in murder cases for the past 70 years would be rendered invalid.


Pardoning powers of the President

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