January 15, 2020

SC Questions CBI Probe In Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


The Supreme Court has expressed its concern about the lack of progress of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe underway for the past 22 years to unearth the larger conspiracy behind the assassination of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao has observed that the latest report filed by the CBI is a mirror image of the report it filed two years ago.

“What is the progress? We want to know” the court asked the CBI. The Supreme Court's observation came in response to an appeal filed by convict A G Perarivalan, sentenced to life, seeking to recall the judgment convicting him in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea of Perarivalan, who sought deferral of his life sentence in the case citing an incomplete MDMA probe into the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Perarivalan and three others were initially awarded death sentences in that case, which was later commuted to life terms.

In November 2019, the matter had come up for hearing before the Supreme Court, which sought the latest status report about the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and gave four weeks to the CBI-led Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) which has been probing the case, to furnish its report.

The MDMA was set up in 1998 on the recommendations of Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry. This Jain Commission was set up to probe the larger conspiracy which led to Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. The MDMA is headed by a CBI official and comprises officers from the Intelligence Bureau, Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) as well as other investigation agencies.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had agreed to examine whether Perarivalan can be released on the basis of fresh evidence came to light about whether the two batteries supplied by him were the ones used in the belt-bomb which was used to assassinate the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who appeared for Perarivalan, had stated that Letters Rogatory (LRs) sent to many countries, are yet to receive any conclusive response since 1998.

In his petition, Perarivalan stated that the only substantial overt act attributed to him was that of supplying two 9-volt batteries, which were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device which killed Rajiv Gandhi.

The Supreme Court asked Perarivalan's lawyer, “Have you seen this report (submitted by the CBI)? We want to know the progress made in two years”. The Supreme Court also allowed Perarivalan's lawyers to examine the report in the court.

Perarivalan’s lawyer Sankaranarayanan had submitted the man who had actually constructed the bomb which killed Rajiv Gandhi is lodged in a Sri Lankan jail since decades, but Indian investigation agencies keep claiming that the probe is still going on, since the Sri Lankan government has not responded to their queries.

Sankaranarayanan had also argued that the details about how the bomb was put together and how it was transported to the crime scene have not been uncovered in 28 years, even as the person who constructed the bomb which killed Rajiv Gandhi is yet to be investigated by any Indian investigation agency.

Significantly, in March 2018, the Supreme Court had asked the MDMA to file a status report in connection with the LR sent to Sri Lanka to examine one of the accused named Nixon alias Suren, who is lodged in a Sri Lankan jail in Colombo, who is believed to be the one who actually constructed the bomb which killed Rajiv Gandhi.

However, the central government opposed Perarivalan’s lawyer Sankaranarayanan’s submission and contended that his client Perarivalan's role was not limited to mere procurement of batteries. The investigation agency maintained that Perarivalan was an active conspirator in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

The Supreme Court had told Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand, representing the MDMA, to include the updated status of Letters Rogatory (LRs) sent to Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries. “Latest status report is to be filed in four weeks,” the Supreme Court bench had stated.

The Supreme Court observed that the last report on the matter is an year old, and the response on LRs sent to the above mentioned countries is still awaited.

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