On Friday, the Supreme Court asked the Central Government to decide by January 26, Balwant Singh Rajoana’s plea for commutating the death penalty awarded to him in the former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case.
Appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for Rajoana, said it would be possible for the government to spare time for the mercy petition, which had been pending for the past eight years, as there is no foreign guest coming on January 26 for the Republic Day celebrations.
The above submissions were made during the hearing of a writ petition filed by Balwant Singh seeking commutation of his death penalty on the ground that his mercy petition had been pending for the past eight years.
Balwant Singh Rajoana’s Sentence
Rajoana was sentenced to death for the murder of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in a bomb explosion in Chandigarh on 31st August 1995.
Rajoana’s counsel submitted that the petitioner has been in custody for nearly 25 years and that his mercy plea before the President has been kept undecided for over eight years. He, therefore, submitted that Rajoana is entitled to commutation of the death penalty as per the SC decisions in Shatrughan Chouhan and Sriharan cases on account of delay in deciding the mercy petition.
On the other hand, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj appearing for the Union Government sought for adjournment while citing that the mercy plea file was being processed and had been submitted before the competent authority within the government. The President would make the final decision on whether Rajoana should live or not.
Meanwhile, Rohatgi submitted that the ASG’s submissions were ‘irrelevant’ as Balwant Singh was entitled to commutation of the death penalty on the sole ground of long pendency of his mercy plea.
Supreme Court’s observations
After hearing the above contentions made by both the counsels, the top court stated that a few more weeks’ time will not make much of a difference.
“January 26 is a good day to make a decision,” said CJI. “We will give two to three weeks. You should complete the process before January 26. January 26 is a good day. It will be appropriate if you take a decision before that,” he added.
Meanwhile, Rajoana’s counsel Rohatgi said “Since there is no Chief Guest for the Republic Day function, they should not be having any difficulty in deciding.”
The former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh and 16 others were killed in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh in 1995. Rajaona is facing capital punishment in CM Beant’s assassination and was sentenced to death in 2007 by a special court. His mercy petition under Article 72 of the Constitution has been pending for the last eight years.