Judicial Reforms

TN Governor to decide on Ex-PM assassin Pardon


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pardoning powers of Governor and President

Mains level: Capital punishment

Tamil Nadu Governor would take a decision as per the Constitution in the next three or four days on the plea for release filed by A.G. Perarivalan, who is undergoing life imprisonment for the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Give your personal views in favour and against Capital Punishment in the comment box.

What is the news?

  • The court noted in its short order that the Solicitor General submitted that the application filed by the petitioner Perarivalan under Article 161 of the Constitution.
  • The TN State Cabinet had earlier made the recommendation to remit the life sentences of seven convicts, including Perarivalan in September 2018.
  • The new turn of events when the Additional Solicitor General for the Centre, had argued recently that the pleas for pardon and release should go to the President instead of the Governor.

What does Pardon mean?

  • A pardon is a government/executive decision to allow a person to be absolved of guilt for an alleged crime or other legal offense as if the act never occurred.

Why need a Pardon?

  • Pardons can be granted when individuals are deemed to have demonstrated that they have “paid their debt to society”, or are otherwise considered to be deserving of them.
  • Pardons are sometimes offered to persons who were either wrongfully convicted or who claim that they were wrongfully convicted.
  • Pardons are sometimes seen as a mechanism for combating corruption, allowing a particular authority to circumvent a flawed judicial process to free someone that is seen as wrongly convicted.

What does Article 161 say?

  • Article 161 of the Constitution provides the Governor with the power to remit or commute the sentence of any prisoner.
  • The Governor’s decision will be subject to judicial review by the constitutional courts.

Supreme court’s observations

  • The Constitution Bench in 2015, in a majority decision, had held that the States cannot unilaterally remit the sentences of life convicts in cases investigated by a Central agency under a Central law.
  • The assassination case was probed by the CBI.
  • In compliance with the 2015 verdict, the Tamil Nadu government wrote to the Centre in 2016, proposing the grant of remission to the convicts. The State wanted the Centre to concur.
  • After a wait of over two years, the Centre rejected the State’s proposal, saying this was an unparalleled act in the annals of crimes committed in this country.

Arguments in Perarivalan’s petition seeking pardon

  • Perarivalan had been pleading for release citing that he was 19 when he was arrested.
  • He was the only male child of his parents, there were no records of criminal antecedents, and that he had excellent conduct in his entire prison life.
  • His petition also cited UG and PG degrees, and that he was the university topper, Gold medalist in diploma in DTP, and that he completed more than eight diploma and certificate courses during his prison term.
  • His probation officer gave a report about lapses in recording his confession statement that handed out maximum punishment in his case.

Basis of his innocence

  • Perarivalan cannot be called innocent before the law as he continues to be a convicted prisoner serving imprisonment.
  • He was accused of having bought two battery cells for Sivarasan, the LTTE man who masterminded the conspiracy.
  • He was sentenced to death based on this crucial confession statement.

Significance of the convicts’ release

  • The release of seven convicts is a demand raised by not only the ruling party of TN but the main opposition too.
  • All TN politicians voiced that the judiciary should be able to reform and let them live as good citizens to uphold the high values of reformatory justice and restitution.

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