Centre gets 2 weeks to commute death sentence of Beant's killer

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 1/26/2021 9:51:47 PM

NEW DELHI, Jan 25: The Supreme Court on Monday gave two weeks to the Centre to decide on the commutation of the death sentence on Balwant Singh Rajoana for assassination of then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh of Congress in 1995 and fixed further hearing on February 12.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought three weeks' time, saying the government was examining the mercy petition filed on his behalf.
Stating that three weeks were unreasonable, Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde said: "We give you a last chance. Matter adjourned for two weeks."
Senior advovate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Rajoana, opposed Mehta's request, saying that his client is in jail for 26 years and so the government must take decision before January 26.
In an earlier hearing, the Court had pulled up the government for pleading that no decision could be taken since appeals of his co-accused sentenced in the case were pending in the top court. The Bench said this should not come in the process, once the government decided to recommend a Presidential pardon to the condemned man.
Rajoana has not appealed against conviction and sentence, but other co-accussed have filed mercy plea and that can't be a ground to hold recommendation for pardon, the bench had noted.
Centre processed remission in 2019 of Rajoana, who was awarded capital punishment for Singh's killing. He has been in jail for 25 years.
Rajoana, a former Punjab police personnel, was sentenced to death for a bomb explosion in Chandigarh in Augut 1995 that killed the then chief minister. A Chandigarh court had, on July 27, 2007, awarded death sentence to Rajoana which was upheld by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on October 12, 2010.
The Bench noted that on September 27, 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs had sent a letter to the Punjab Chief Secretary to intimate that a proposal would be sent to the President to commute Rajoana's death sentence and release of some Sikh prisoners on the 550th birth anniversary of first Sikh master, Guru Nanak Dev.
The letter read: "‘It has been decided that 8 sikh prisoners be given special remission under Article 161 of the Constitution and released from prison. The proposal for commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment of one prisoner is to be processed under Article 72 of the Constitution of India." That prisoner is Rajoana.



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