Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 8
The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to decide by January 26 Balwant Singh Rajoana’s plea for commuting the death penalty awarded to him in former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case. The former Chief Minister and 16 others were killed in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh in 1995.
In jail for last 25 years, Rajoana was sentenced to death in 2007. His mercy petition under Article 72 of the Constitution has been hanging fire for eight years.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said the decision had to be taken before Republic Day. “We will give two-three weeks. You should complete the process before January 26. January 26 is a good day,” the CJI said.
Maintaining that pendency of appeals by co-accused has no bearing on Presidential pardon granted to a death-row convict, the Supreme Court had on December 4 questioned the Centre over delay in sending proposal to the President for commuting Rajoana’s death penalty. “The appeal of other co-accused has no relevance to the decision to commute the death sentence of some convicts, taken to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev,” it had noted. Citing Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s case, the petitioner has claimed the “delay caused by circumstances beyond prisoners’ control mandates commutation of death sentence”. The inordinate delay caused agony and adversely affected his physical and mental health, Rajaona contended.