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In 1998, AG Perarivalan received a death sentence for his role in the creation of the bomb that killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when he was just 19 years old. His death penalty was changed to a life sentence in 2014. The Supreme Court authorized the parole of Perarivalan, who is now 50 years old, on May 18, 2021, despite a legal argument about who should determine the remission request. The highest court used the exceptional powers provided to it by Article 142 of the Indian Constitution to release Perarivalan. A bench headed by justice L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai issued the following ruling in the case: “State cabinet had taken its decision based on relevant considerations. In exercise of Article 142, it is appropriate to release the convict.”[1]


The Supreme Court occasionally cites this constitutional clause, which gives the Supreme Court unprecedented and one-of-a-kind powers to “complete justice” in all cases that are before it. The Supreme Court may use its extraordinary rights under Article 142 to decide legal cases where current laws or legislation do not offer a remedy.

Article 142[2] states “ Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and unless as to discovery, etc ( 1 ) The Supreme 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, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe

(2) Subject to the provisions of any law made on this behalf by Parliament, the Supreme Court shall, as respects the whole of the territory of India, have all and every power to make any order to secure the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself”.

The Supreme Court received praise early on in the development of Article 142 from both the general public and the legal community for its efforts to provide full justice to different underprivileged groups in society or to save the environment. The top court has previously used Article 142 in several high-profile cases of national significance, such as the 2019 Ayodhya Ram Mandir[3] verdict, where the apex court granted a trust three months to form a trust to receive the 2.77 acres of the disputed land for the construction of a temple where the apex court granted a trust three months to form a trust to receive the 2.77 acres of the disputed land for the construction of a temple. In the 1989 Union Carbide case[4], the Supreme Court ordered the US-based Union Carbide Corporation to pay $470 million to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims, using its exceptional powers once more.


Due to an excessive and unjustified delay in ruling on Perarivalan’s compassion request, the Apex Court modified his death sentence to life imprisonment in 2014. Then in 2018, Perarivalan decided to apply for early release under Article 161[5] of the Constitution of India. On September 9, 2018, the State Cabinet decided to grant his request for remission, and as a result, it transmitted that decision to the Governor. The Governor then put the plea on hold for a considerable amount of time. The Apex Court expressed unhappiness with the pending situation since the case was scheduled for a hearing in November 2020.The Governor will decide in three to four days, as the Solicitor General promised the Apex Court on January 21, 2021. On January 22, 2021, the Bench requested that the Governor decides within a week. On March 9, 2022, the Bench granted him bail after noting that he had served 32 years in prison (or 36 years without remission).[6]


The Court recognized that the Governor is the constitutional head of state under the Cabinet form of government and that he exercises his authority with the assistance and counsel of the Council of Ministers. It can only use judgment in situations that are allowed by the Constitution. The Governor’s pleasure with the use of his authority under different Constitutional articles does not relate to his satisfaction, but rather the satisfaction of the Council of Ministers. Concerning the judgment made in the case Maru Ram v. Union of India[7], the Supreme Court said “The upshot is that the State Government, whether the Governor likes it or not, can advise and act under Article 161, the Governor is bound by that advice. The action of commutation and release can thus be under a governmental decision and the order may issue even without the Governor’s approval although, under the Rules of Business and as a matter of constitutional courtesy, the signature of the Governor must authorize the pardon, commutation or release”.


The IPC, the Arms Act of 1959[8], the Explosive Substances Act of 1908[9], the Passport Act of 1967[10], the Foreigners Act of 1946[11], the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933[12], and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act of 1987[13] all resulted in Perarivalan’s conviction.[14] The appointed TADA Court gave him a death sentence.

After the State Cabinet recommended that Perarivalan’s sentence be commuted, his petition according to Article 161 went unanswered for 2.5 years. It has also been unanswered for more than a year following the Governor’s referral. The Supreme Court’s decision to order his freedom was primarily influenced by this. In addition, the Court took note of the fact that Perarivalan was 19 years old when he was arrested and has been in prison for 32 years, of which 16 have been spent on death row and 29 in solitary confinement. Regarding his behavior in custody, there has been no complaint.[15] There has never been a complaint about Perarivalan’s behavior or a violation of any parole requirements during either of his two parole releases. Perarivalan’s medical records, which were submitted on his behalf, reveal that he has ongoing medical conditions. In addition to his exemplary behavior while incarcerated, Perarivalan has educated himself and successfully finished eight certification courses, an undergraduate degree, a postgraduate degree, and his +2 examinations. All this helped in granting Perarivalan bail.[16]


A.G. Perarivalan’s case started to move in his favor on February 18, 2014, when a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, presided over by the then-Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam, reduced the death penalty for him and two other defendants to life in prison. The court made a clear statement in its decision that “apex constitutional authorities” like the President and the Governor must utilize their mercy powers under Articles 72[17] and 161, respectively within the broad framework of the constitution. Chief Justice Sathasivam, who wrote the verdict, criticized the government in a brief but moving judgment that included copies of several letters written by three prisoners to the government describing how the delay was killing them and how every day was a “living death” and how mercy petitions filed under Articles 72/161 could be resolved much more quickly than what is currently done if the proper procedure stipulated by law is followed exactly.[18]The lack of a time restriction for the President/Governor to act on the mercy petition should push the administration to work more methodically to restore the people’s faith in the institution of democracy.

Author(s) Name: Saransh Sinha (Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies)


[1]Mekhala Saran, ‘Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Convict Released: What is Article 142 Cited by SC?’ (The Quint, 19 May 2022)<> accessed 23 June 2022

[2] Constitution of India, 1950, art.142

[3]M Siddiq (D) ThrLrs v Mahant Suresh Das &Ors (2019) 4 SCC 641

[4]M.C. Mehta v Union of India (1987) SCR (1) 819

[5] Constitution of India, 1950, art.161

[6]Sohini Chowdhury, ‘Arrested At 19, In Jail For 32 Years’ (Live Law, 18 May 2022)
<> accessed 23 June 2022

[7]Maru Ram v Union of India (1981)1 SCC 107

[8] Arms Act, 1959

[9]Explosive Substances Act, 1908

[10] Passports Act, 1967

[11] Foreigners Act, 1946

[12] Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933

[13] Terrorist Act and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987

[14]Prachi Bhardwaj, ‘Rajiv Gandhi assassination’ (SCC Online, 19 May 2022)<> accessed 24 June 2022

[15]A.G. Perarivalan v The State of Tamil Nadu (2022) Criminal Appeal No. 834/2022

[16]Prachi Bhardwaj (n 14)

[17]Constitution of India, 1950, art.72

[18]Krishnadas Rajagopal, ‘For Perarivalan, the turning point was commuting of death sentence by Supreme Court in 2014’ (The Hindu, 19 May 2022) <> accessed 24 June 2022