SC decision in Perarivalan case should send strong signals to governors who stonewall state government decisions

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court AG Perarivalan . release Ending the more than three-decade battle of the 50-year-old accused in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case. The relief provided by the court was long overdue – the prolonged imprisonment of Perarivalan was inhumane. But the ruling is also crucial for another reason: It clarifies the constitutional issues that have led to many confrontations between state governments and governors in recent times, resulting in excessive delays in implementing policy.

The Tada court sentenced Perarivan to death in 1998, a ruling that the Supreme Court upheld a year later. In 2014, the Supreme Court reduced the sentence to life imprisonment. A year later, Pirarivalan made an appeal to the governor of Tamil Nadu, requesting his release under Article 161 of the constitution. When this petition fell on deaf ears, he moved SC which returned the ball to Raj Bhavan court in September 2018. Days after this directive, AIADMK’s Tamil Nadu government recommended the release of all convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. It will take two and a half years before the governor passes the file on to President Ram Nath Kovind. During this period, the governor was summoned by the state Supreme Court as well as the Supreme Court for inaction. Now, the Supreme Court has come down hard again on Raj Bhavan. It ruled on Wednesday that the state government’s advice to the governor regarding requests for exemption under Section 161 is binding and need not refer the matter to the president. Therefore, the vacillation over Piraivalan’s petition was “inexplicable” and “unforgivable”.

The ruling reaffirms the basic principle of the country’s system of government: “The governor holds the position of the chief executive of the state, but the cabinet in almost every state is the one who holds the executive government.” This should send a strong signal to state governors in many states who have blocked state government decisions. The recent dispute between the two Tennessee authorities over the NEET exam is a case in point. In fact, according to a report in this newspaper, at least 20 bills or recommendations from the state government await the Tennessee governor’s decision, as of the end of March. Raj Bhavans in West Bengal and Kerala frequently clashed with governments on matters of policy. The referee must put an end to such quarrels.

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