New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government to respond to a plea of one of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case seeking suspension of his sentence till the CBI concluded its probe into the conspiracy behind making of the bomb.
A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha asked the government to clarify its stand within two weeks on the plea by convict A G Perarivalan, whose death sentence was earlier commuted to life term by the apex court.
In his plea, Perarivalan has told the court that he was held guilty for supplying two nine volt batteries which were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that killed Gandhi in 1991, but probe by CBI's Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) relating to IED was still going on.
The convict has said he has spent 26 years behind bars in connection with the case while the Tamil Nadu government has already decided to set him free by remitting the remaining portion of his sentence.
He claimed the state government has sought concurrence of the Centre on remission of his sentence, but the Centre has not taken any decision in the matter for the past two years.
"One of the primary purpose of further investigation and constitution of MDMA in CBI is to find out the origin and make of the IED and the larger conspiracy that consumed the life of Rajiv Gandhi," the plea, filed through Perarivalan's counsel Gopal Shankarnarayanan, said.
"However, even after 18 years of investigation, the CBI could not conclude its investigation with relation to the IED, its origin and make due to one reason or the other," it said.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at an election rally. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed.
This was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile global leader.
In his plea, 45-year-old Perarivalan has referred to an affidavit filed by V Thiagarajan, the then superintendent of police of CBI, and claimed that his conviction was based on his confessional statement recorded by this officer.
It claimed that Thiagarajan had said in his affidavit that Perarivalan, while making confessional statement before him, had expressly stated that at the time of purchase of the batteries, he had absolutely no idea for what purpose these were going to be used.
Referring to his affidavit, the convict claimed that the CBI officer had said at that point in time, as the probe was still in progress, they were not sure about it and thus, this particular statement was "omitted" from being recorded in the confessional statement.
The plea alleged that one of the suspects of CBI's MDMA, Kumaran Padmanaba alias KP, was the chief arms procurer for Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the relevant time and was presently in the custody of the Sri Lankan government.
"An effective and a whole-hearted investigation would throw much light on the make and origin of the IED. In these unique facts and circumstances, the petitioner's sentence may be suspended till CBI (MDMA) takes the investigation to its logical conclusion," the plea said.
It also referred to one Nixon alias Suren, who is among one of the 21 suspects in MDMA's probe, and claimed that he was aware of the belt-bomb being made.
"Once the CBI (MDMA) concludes its investigation pertaining to the above said Nixon alias Suren, there is every likelihood of the applicant (Perarivalan) being completely absolved from the guilt which he is bearing on his shoulders since the day of his arrest," the plea said.
He requested the court to suspend his sentence till the MDMA concluded its investigation relating to the IED and the larger conspiracy behind making of the bomb or till the filing of a charge sheet or closure report by the agency.
The Centre had earlier filed in a sealed cover a report on the investigation being carried out on the conspiracy aspect behind the making of the bomb that had killed Gandhi.
The apex court had on August 17 asked the Centre and CBI to apprise it of the probe being carried out on the conspiracy aspect behind the making of bomb after Perarivalan had claimed that this aspect was not being probed properly.
Perarivalan's counsel had said that besides this aspect, which was directed to be probed by Justice Jain Commission, there were other issues like the missing files concerning the security provided to Rajiv Gandhi and the murder of a Delhi- based journalist, Rajinder Kumar Jain, which were not investigated thoroughly.
The apex court had on February 18, 2014 commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment, along with two other condemned prisoners - Santhan and Murugan - on grounds of a delay of 11 years in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.