Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 25
The Supreme Court on Monday gave a last chance to the Centre to take a call on the mercy plea filed by Balwant Singh Rajoana for commuting the death penalty awarded to him in former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case.
A Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, which had earlier asked the government to decide the petition before Republic Day, gave two more weeks after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the government was examining the issue.
Mehta said it would not be prudent to decide the matter at this juncture as it could have some repercussions in the present situation. As Mehta sought three weeks, the CJI shot back, “Why three weeks? What is happening Mr Mehta… A three-week period is unreasonable. We asked you to decide before January 26.”
Mehta said, “The decision going either way will have some repercussions in the present circumstances.” The Bench agreed to grant two weeks as the last chance for the government to decide the matter. On behalf of the petitioner, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi opposed Mehta’s request, saying, “The man (Rajoana) is in jail for 25 years. His mercy plea has been pending for over eight years.” “He is in jail for killing a chief minister,” replied Mehta. Convicted of assassinating Beant Singh in 1995, Rajoana has been in jail for 25 years awaiting his execution. The former Punjab CM and 16 others were killed in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh in 1995. Rajoana was sentenced to death in 2007 by a special court.
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.
Once the Centre has decided to recommend Presidential pardon for a death row convict, the pendency of appeals of his co-accused can’t be a reason to delay the clemency proceedings, it had said.