Patiala jailor again refuses to accept Rajoana's death warrant

Despite a court in Chandigarh issuing him a showcause notice for contempt, the Patiala jail superintendent Tuesday again refused to accept the warrant of death for Babbar Khalsa terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana.

"The Superintendent of Central Jail, Patiala today (Tuesday) pleaded to the Additional Sessions Judge Chandigarh that he was 'unable and disabled in law' to accept warrants of death against Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana and refused to accept the same. He told the learned court that he was approaching the next higher court for appropriate next step in the case," a Punjab government spokesman said Tuesday evening.

Rajoana, sentenced to death in the 1995 assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, is to hang on March 31. The court of additional district and sessions judge Shalini Singh Nagpal had Tuesday rejected jail superintendent L.S. Jakhar's petition seeking deferment of the hanging. The court directed that the hanging be held as per earlier schedule on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Claiming that he was refusing to accept the warrant of death for Rajoana purely on the grounds that "there were legal infirmities in the procedure", Jakhar sought deferment of hanging pending a decision of the Supreme Court on the appeals of two other terrorists, Lakhwinder Singh and Jagtar Singh Hawara, who were also convicted in the Beant Singh assassination case.

Authorities in Punjab have beefed up security across the state in view of the court orders for Rajoana's hanged.  Nearly 60,000 Punjab police personnel and 15 companies of para-military forces have been put on alert. Security forces have taken out flag marches in some cities and towns since Monday.

Beant Singh, Punjab chief minister between 1992 and 1995 and largely credited with wiping out terrorism from the state, was assassinated by a human bomb, Dilawar Singh, at the high security Punjab civil secretariat here Aug 31, 1995.

While Hawara was the mastermind of the assassination, Rajoana was the second human bomb to be used in case the first assassin failed. Rajoana, during the entire 11-year trial, had admitted that he alone was responsible for the killing of Beant Singh. He had refused to defend himself in court.

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