Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 8
The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to decide by January 26 Balwant S Rajoana’s plea for commutating the death penalty awarded to him in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh’s assassination case.
Convicted of assassinating Beant Singh in 1995, Rajoana has been in jail for 25 years awaiting his execution.
The former Punjab chief minister and 16 others were killed in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh in 1995.
Rajaona was sentenced to death in 2007 by a special court. His mercy petition under Article 72 of the Constitution is hanging fire for eight years.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said the decision had to be taken before the Republic Day, which is a “good date”.
“We will give two to three weeks. You should complete the process before January 26. January 26 is a good day. It will be appropriate if you take a decision before that,” 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 the delay in sending a proposal to the President for commuting Rajoana’s death penalty.
Once the Centre had decided to recommend Presidential pardon for a death row convict, the pendency of appeals of his co-accused could not be a reason to delay the clemency proceedings, it had said.
“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.
The court’s comments had come after the Centre contended that the proposal to commute death sentence was not sent to the President as the appeal of other co-accused was pending and the convict himself hadn’t filed an appeal.
Citing Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s case, the petitioner has claimed that the “delay caused by circumstances beyond the prisoners’ control mandates commutation of the death sentence”.
The inordinate delay caused agony and adversely affected his physical and mental health, Rajaona contended.