NEW DELHI: The Centre’s decision to cancel the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was convicted for the assassination of former Punjab CM Beant Singh, was done ‘suo motu’ without any request from Rajoana for the same, officials said on Monday.
Officials clarified that though the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has taken an “in-principle” decision to commute Rajoana’s death sentence to life imprisonment, the decision is still under process and the file is yet to be sent to President Ram Nath Kovind, who has the authority to give final approval in the matter.
A senior Home Ministry official said that Rajoana had never filed a mercy plea but there are provisions which allow the Central government to make a suo motu recommendation for commutation of death sentence of a convict.
The Centre’s clarification comes at a time when Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has said that the state has no role in Centre’s decision. On Monday, the CM said the Centre had demanded a list of 17 prisoners booked under TADA from the state government.
Centre’s decision of commuting Rajoana’s death sentence to life imprisonment has been criticized by Congress.
Ludhiana Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, who is the grandson of slain former CM Beant Singh, has questioned the Centre’s move, saying the dreaded terrorist should not be “spared” at any cost.
Beant Singh, credited for ending terrorism in Punjab, was assassinated on August 31, 1995, in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh.
On Saturday, the Home Ministry had announced that said eight Sikh prisoners, lodged in different jails in the country for committing crimes during militancy in Punjab, would be released as a token of goodwill by the government on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Devji.
Besides freeing eight Sikh prisoners the ministry had also announced commutation of Rajoana’s death sentence to life imprisonment.