By Harihar Swarup
AG Perarivalan is finally back home, after having spent nearly 31 years behind bars. One of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, he was initially sentenced to death; the Supreme Court later commuted it to life imprisonment. In March, this year he was granted bail and on May 18, the apex court ordered his early release.
Most of his time in prison was spent among books, educational and otherwise including Tamil and Russian literature. While in Jail, Perarivalan also filed several petitions under the Right to Information Act, and review petitions in Court. Following his long incarceration, he wants to pursue a degree in Law and work on prison reforms. But politics or social activism is of no interest to him.
How was life in prison for him? He says: “I always had confidence in myself because truth was on my side. In this case nothing was in hands of those who were arrested or involved in the case. It was only in hands of the Special Investigation team that probed the case. There were only a few media houses then even they did not take our opinion. Because a tall leader was killed, there was huge public resentment towards us.”
“Only after I went to Supreme Court in the MDMA case in 2016 did the opening start changing and the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency was constituted to look into the larger conspiracy behind Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan appeared on behalf of me in the Supreme Court. Justice L. Nageshwara Rau and Justice Ranjan Gogoi first heard the case in 2016. Dhavan argued that in 1991 when the incident happened and the case was filed, “it was only a boom theory”.
He said those days were very sensational and now we will come to “real bomb theory”. Convinced by the argument, the Supreme Court bench then issued notice and that has only led to the release now……the CBI-SIT was also very strong in taking forward the case. But later even those officers felt that they have done injustice. This, I would say, was a turning point in the case. It happened because this case saw the height of injustice…. Nowhere in the world have 26 people have been awarded death penalty. This is why even the Supreme Court once called it a “judicial massacre”.
Q. You have read lot of books in prison. You read Maxim Gorky and many Russian novels. How did these books influence you?
A. My sister introduced me to Russian novels. I read in Tamil, like how the steel was tempered by Nikolai Ostrovsky, A story of real man by Boris Polevoy and Gorky’s mother. I have mother thrice. The first time I read it, I was 18….. I read Mother the second time when I was a remand prisoner. I read it again when death penalty was declared. The third time I read it, I began comparing my mother with character in the Novel. But I felt that our story should not end the way it did in Mother.
Apart from these, I always took refuge in Thirukkural. I read it with explanation of Naval Nedunchezhiyan, because he is basically an atheist. I have also travelled with Thiruvalluvar. (IPA Service)