New Delhi [India], December 4 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Central government when will it send a proposal to the President for the commutation of Balwant Singh Rajoana's death sentence for killing then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said it is untenable in part of Centre to take a stand that proposal for commutation of death sentence of Rajoana was not processed because of pendency of appeals of co-accused in Beant Singh killing case.
The bench said once the government has decided to recommend a Presidential pardon for a condemned man, the pendency of appeals in the Supreme Court of his co-accused cannot delay the process initiated under Article 72.
Rajoana has not appealed against conviction and sentence but other co-accussed have filed mercy plea and "this can't be a ground to hold recommendation for pardon", the bench noted.
Centre processed remission last year of Rajoana, who was awarded capital punishment for Singh's killing. He has been in jail for 25 years.
During the hearing, the bench said an appeal pending by other co-accused has no relevance to the decision by Ministry of Home Affairs to commute the death sentence of some convicts taken to commemorate 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
CJI Bobde noted that by a letter dated September 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs had written to Chief Secretary of Punjab government that on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nayak Dev, the release of some prisoners is proposed.
On being asked about the status of the case, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj said the proposal was not sent to the President as the appeal of the convict is pending.
"It is not denied that petitioner has not filed any appeal thus there is no question of any appeal pending in this Court. We find it obvious that the fact of pending appeals at the behest of other co-accused would have no relevance to the proposal intended to be sent for consideration under Article 72," the bench said.
Nataraj sought time to make a statement on the issue of when the proposal will be sent for processing to the President. The bench granted two weeks and asked him to apprise the court.
The convict, Balwant Singh Rajoana, was sentenced to death for the murder of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh who died in a bomb explosion in Chandigarh on August 31, 1995.
The Centre had decided last year on September 27 to commute the death penalty of Rajoana to a life sentence on the special occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. Almost a year has passed but the decision is yet to be implemented.
Now, he has approached the apex court seeking commutation of sentence to life imprisonment for the failure on part of the Central government to decide on his mercy petition filed eight years ago.
A Chandigarh court had, on July 27, 2007, awarded death sentence to Rajoana which was upheld by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on October 12, 2010. Rajoana has not filed an appeal against the decision and instead filed a mercy petition before the President. (ANI)