New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the Central government for not taking any decision so far on the mercy petition of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was awarded the death sentence for the assassination of the then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995.
A bench of Justices Chief Justice UU Lalit, Justices S Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha was irked over the Centre not taking any clear stand on the mercy petition despite being given time by the court to do so, and now seeking adjournment in the case. Earlier in May, the apex court had directed the Centre to decide within two months mercy petition of Balwant Singh Rajoana seeking to commute to life imprisonment the death sentence on the ground of his long incarceration of 26 years.
During the hearing, the bench took exception to the Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj’s request for an adjournment as the matter was pending consideration with the government.
The bench said that a total of four months had lapsed since the May 2 order.
“We gave you two months. And now, two more months have passed. You raised two technical issues. We told you please don’t wait for that,” said the bench.
The top court said it could not tell the Centre what decision has to be taken but the government certainly should take a decision in the matter.
It directed a responsible officer from the concerned department to file an affidavit indicating the status in the matter.
“As per the ASG’s request, we adjourn the matter to Friday as first item on board. In the meanwhile, we direct a responsible officer from the concerned department to file an affidavit indicating the progress in the matter. The affidavit to be filed tomorrow,” the apex court stated in its order while posting the matter for September 30.
Earlier it had asked the Centre to decide Rajoana’s plea without being influenced by the fact that the appeals filed by other convicts in the case are pending in the top court.
Rajoana had moved to the top court two years ago seeking implementation of a decision taken by the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) in September 2019 to commute Rajoana’s death sentence to life. He had said that the Central government had in 2019 announced its decision to commute his death penalty and grant remission to eight other convicts to mark the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
He had sought for the implementation of that decision and alternately prayed to commute his death sentence on the ground of long delay in considering the mercy petition.
The top court had said that it is untenable on the part of the Centre to take a stand that the proposal for commutation of the death sentence of Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, was not processed because of the 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.
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 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.
More than two years have passed but the decision is yet to be implemented. A Chandigarh court had, on July 27, 2007, awarded the 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.