The verdict of the apex court ordering the release of A G Perarivalan, who was one of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, led to an affirmation of Westminsterian governance in the nation and also strengthened its federal structure.
The man in question, A G Perarivalan, had been convicted on charges of providing assistance in the assassination of a former Prime Minister with capital punishment. However, due to excessive delay because of his long-pending mercy petitions before the executives, his capital punishment was reduced to imprisonment for life in the year 2014. In the year 2018, the Governor of Tamil Nadu was asked by the state cabinet to remit Perarivalan’s sentence, citing that he had already spent 27 years in jail with a record of good behaviour and had passed his undergraduate, postgraduate, and diploma courses. The Governor was requested to do so, keeping in mind his authority under Article 161 of the Constitution of India. However, the recommendation of the cabinet was kept pending for two and a half years and then transferred to the President, who said that he was not the right person to grant remittance.
After a lot of deliberations, the matter made its way to the apex court, which invoked its extraordinary powers granted under Article 142 of the Constitution to do complete justice and granted him remittance in the case of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. The court also held that the state government has the right to aid and advise the Governor in cases of pleas of pardon under Article 161 by the convicts in murder cases. The court also 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, saying this contention would render Article 161 a "dead-letter" and create an extraordinary situation whereby pardons granted by Governors in murder cases for the past 70 years would be rendered invalid.
In Article 142 of the Constitution of India, it provides discretionary power to the Supreme Court, stating that the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such a decree or make such an order as it is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.
Another significant issue addressed by the Supreme Court in the same decision was Section 432(7)(a) of the CrPC, which gives the Centre the authority to decide on remittance only if the offence is against a matter relevant to the Centre's executive power, leaving the rest to the states. be noted here is that the executive functions of a state run parallel to matters on which the said government has the power to make laws, and, in this case, the subject matter was related to "public order," which lies under the state list.
Hence, it can be concluded that in the above mentioned case, the state had legitimised power to remit the punishment and the conduct of the Governor, by saying that he didn’t have the power to do so, was wrong.
This article is written by Aparna Kushwaha of Amity Law School, Noida.