Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A.G. Perarivalan on Wednesday celebrated the Supreme Court verdict directing his release by playing the Tamil percussion instrument parai and said he wanted to breathe the air of freedom before thinking about his future.
The news of the apex court allowing him to walk free was received with great jubilation by Perarivalan’s family, relatives and several pro-Tamil outfits in Tamil Nadu.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed by an LTTE suicide bomber at an election meeting in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur in 1991. Perarivalan was charged with procuring batteries for the bomb used in the assassination. He was 19 years old when he was arrested.
Initially handed capital punishment by a special court in Chennai, which was later commuted to life term, Perarivalan said he was against death sentence.
“I firmly believe there is no need for capital punishment. Not just for mercy... many judges, including Supreme Court chief justices, have said so and there are many examples. Everybody is human,” he said, with his mother Arputhammal and relatives by his side.
“I have just come out. It has been 31 years of legal battle. I have to breathe a bit. Give me some time,” he said when reporters asked how he felt as a “free bird” and what his future plans were.
“Many unknown people have supported us. I don’t know many people. I thank all of them,” an emotional Arputhammal said while recalling the “31-year battle” her son endured.
Chief minister M.K. Stalin spoke to Arputhammal over phone. Perarivalan, his mother and others later met the chief minister.
Welcoming the judgment, Stalin said it could find a place in the “justice-law-political-administrative history”.
Perarivalan later played the parai, an ancient percussion instrument seen as part of the Tamil pride, in an obvious sign of celebrating his freedom.
While the AIADMK cabinet in 2018 had recommended the release of seven convicts in the case — Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas, Jayachandran and Nalini — to then governor Banwarilal Purohit, no decision had been taken on the matter.
Regarding the other six convicts, the government will hold discussions with legal experts on their release after going through the details of the judgment, Stalin said.
The Opposition AIADMK said Perarivalan’s release was a result of the late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s “grit, farsightedness and legal acumen”.
Just after the judgment was pronounced. Perarivalan’s relatives began arriving at his residence here.
His sister and her family who hastened to meet and greet Perarivalan turned emotional and expressed great joy over his release.
Perarivalan’s father Kuildasan expressed great happiness over his son’s three-decade incarceration coming to an end.
Asked about his future plans, including Perarivalan’s wedding, Kuildasan said such matters would be discussed by the family.
Perarivalan, currently on bail, had been granted parole earlier on many occasions by the state government.