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The Supreme Court of India.
The Supreme Court of India.

SC gives two weeks to Centre to decide on mercy plea of convict in Beant Singh assassination case

ANI | Updated: Jan 26, 2021 00:22 IST

New Delhi [India], January 26 (ANI): The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it is examining the mercy pleas filed on behalf of death sentence convict Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is in jail for 26 years for the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.
Supreme Court had asked the Central government to take a decision on mercy pleas filed on behalf of Balwant Singh Rajoana before January 26.
"Take decision on mercy pleas seeking commutation of the death penalty to life imprisonment before January 26. It is a good date," the Bench had said last week.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre, told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde that government is examining the matter and sought three weeks adjournment.
"Government is examining the matter. Under the present circumstances, have this matter after three weeks," Mehta said.
CJI Bobde said three weeks is unreasonable and granted two weeks to Centre to decide the plea.
"We give you the last chance. Matter adjourned for two weeks," Bench said.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Rajoana, opposed Mehta's request saying that his client is in jail for 26 years.
The top court was hearing a plea of Rajoana seeking direction for expeditious disposal of Ministry of Home Affairs' (MHA) proposal to commute his death sentence.
Earlier, the Bench had asked Centre when it will send a proposal to the President for the commutation of Rajoana's death sentence for killing then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.

The top court in December had said that it is untenable in part of Centre to take a stand that proposal for commutation of death sentence of Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, was not processed because of pendency of appeals of co-accused in Beant Singh killing case.
The bench had 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-accused have filed mercy plea and this can't be a ground to hold recommendation for pardon, the bench had noted.
The Centre in 2019 processed remission of Rajoana, who was awarded capital punishment for Singh's killing.
The top court had earlier said that appeal pending by other co-accused has no relevance to the decision by MHA to commute the death sentence of some convicts taken to commemorate 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
It had noted that by a letter dated September 2019, the MHA 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.
The Centre had sought time to make a statement on the issue of when the proposal will be sent for processing to the President.
Beant Singh was killed in a bomb explosion in Chandigarh on August 31, 1995.
The Centre had decided on September 27, 2019, 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)