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Beant Singh assassination: SC asks Centre to decide Rajoana's plea for commutation of death penalty

Balwant Singh Rajoana was convicted for his involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab civil secretariat that killed Beant Singh and 16 others on August 31, 1995.

Published: 02nd May 2022 09:30 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd May 2022 09:30 PM   |  A+A-

Balwant Singh Rajoana, main accused in Beant Singh assassination case, being produced in the court in Patiala.

Balwant Singh Rajoana, main accused in Beant Singh assassination case, being produced in the court in Patiala. (File Photo | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to decide within two months Balwant Singh Rajoana's plea that his death penalty in the 1995 assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of his long incarceration of nearly 26 years.

The apex court did not consider the submission of the Centre that the death row convict has been on record in saying that “he has no faith in the Indian judiciary and the Constitution” and these are relevant factors.

“These all are our citizens and we must have compassion when we are dealing with our citizens especially when it is a death sentence matter,” said the bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat, and P S Narasimha.

It said the pendency of appeals of other co-accused in the apex court in the case would not come in the way of authorities in deciding Rajoana's mercy plea.

“Without getting into the controversy whether the petitioner (Rajoana) himself preferred the mercy petition, we consider the communication on record and the fact that the petitioner has preferred the writ petition,” it said.

"In our view, there would be no obstruction in the light of the direction of this court, and the matter could be and had to be considered despite the pendency of the appeal by the co-accused”, the bench said.

It then directed the authorities to consider the mercy plea “without being influenced by the fact that the appeal on behalf of the co-accused is pending consideration before this court. Let the decision be taken as early as possible preferably within two weeks from today. List the matter in the second week of July 2022."

At the outset, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Rajoana, said the death row convict has been in jail for nearly 26 years, and not deciding on his prayer for commutation of the death penalty into life term itself is flawed under Article 21.

He said the convict is entitled to a decision from the court on his plea and "I am entitled to a decision from this court”.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj drew the attention of the bench to the stand of the convict and said that his views on the judiciary and the Constitution that he did not have faith in have to be considered while deciding his plea.

Asking the government to show compassion while dealing with death row convicts, it said, “we do not stand on these kinds of technicalities and consider purely from the perspective whether the mercy petition deserves consideration favourably or not.

Indignation, somebody may say that that does not mean that they are not our citizens”.

Earlier, the top court had questioned the Centre over the delay in sending a proposal to the President for commuting the death sentence of Rajoana.

It had asked the government to apprise it as to when the authorities concerned will send the proposal to the President under Article 72 of the Constitution which deals with the power of the President to grant pardon, suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.

Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, was convicted for his involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab civil secretariat that killed Beant Singh and 16 others on August 31, 1995.

The top court has been hearing Rajoana's plea seeking commutation of the death sentence to life term on the ground that he has been in jail for 25 years.

A special court had in July 2007 awarded the death sentence to Rajoana in the case.



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