The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to take a decision within two months on a mercy plea of Balwant Singh Rajoana, sentenced to death for his role in the assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995.
A bench of Justices U U Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and P S Narasimha said the decision by the Centre should be taken as early as possible, "preferably within two months from today". The court also emphasised that the matter needs to be dealt with compassion.
Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, representing the Centre, submitted that the mercy petition cannot be considered as it has been filed by an organisation and not by the convict.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also argued that the mercy petition cannot be decided until the appeals filed by other convicts in the case before the apex court are not disposed of. Also, Rajoana has not challenged his conviction or sentence, either before the high court or the Supreme Court.
The bench, however, said that the fact that another organisation has filed the mercy petition is not an obstruction to the consideration of the matter.
The bench told the Centre's counsel that it had decided in September 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 a decision has not been taken on the matter, it pointed out.
Nataraj, for his part, said in 2019, no final decision was taken to commute Rajoana’s death sentence.
He also submitted that Rajoana had given a statement to the trial court that he had no faith in the judiciary and the Constitution.
To this, the bench said, "They are all citizens of this country...need to deal with compassion".
Rajoana was sentenced to death by a special CBI court in Chandigarh on August 1, 2007, for his involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab Civil Secretariat leading to the killing of the Punjab CM and 16 others in 1995. His hanging was stayed in 2012 by the then UPA government on the filing of the mercy petition.
He filed the writ petition for a direction to the Union government to decide his 2012 mercy petition and commute his death sentence to imprisonment for life.
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