New Delhi: Supreme Court in its verdict on Wednesday refused to grant relief to Babbar Khalsa terrorist, Balwant Singh Rajoana, seeking commutation of his death penalty to life imprisonment, but it asked the Centre to take a call in his mercy plea at an appropriate time in future.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice B R Gavai and also comprising Justice Vikram and Sanjay Karol, passed the order, after hearing Rajoana’s plea seeking commutation of death penalty to life imprisonment in the 1995, former Punjab Chief Minister, Beant Singh assassination case.
“We ask the competent authorities to take a decision as and when they deem necessary, on the mercy petition of Balwant Singh Rajoana,” the Bench led by Justice Gavai, read out the judgement.
The Apex Court had reserved its verdict on March 02 this year after hearing from convict- Rajoana, Centre and other respective parties.
For killing the Punjab Chief Minister, Beant Singh in 1995, Rajaona was sentenced to the gallows in 2007 by a lower court in Punjab, and it was also upheld in 2010 by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and also finally by the Supreme Court in 2012.
Former Attorney General (AG) of India and Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Rajoana, had said that the death row convict- Rajoana has served 27 years in jail since 1996 and his mercy petition was filed in 2012 but still not decided.
“Keeping a prisoner on death row for so long violates their fundamental rights,” Rohatgi told the Supreme Court and pleaded for leniency in converting his death penalty to life imprisonment.
He prayed to the Supreme Court to commute his death sentence on the ground of the long delay in considering the mercy petition.
“This man (Rajoana) is suffering only due to the inordinate delay. His (Rajoana’s) death sentence has to be commuted,” Rohatgi told the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court was hearing the plea filed by former Punjab Police constable and pro-Khalistan militant, Rajoana, who has been in jail for the past 26 years, for his involvement in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.
After serving 26 years in jail, including around 10 years on death row, Rajoana, desperately pleaded to the Top Court and sought its mercy in passing orders for his commutation from death penalty to life imprisonment, in the former Punjab Chief Minister, Beant Singh’s assassination case.
The convict, Rajoana had knocked the doors of the Supreme Court and filed the writ petition in 2020, on the ground that the Central Government had in 2019 announced its decision to commute his death penalty to life imprisonment and grant remission to 8 other convicts to mark the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Rajoana, in his petition, had sought for the implementation of this Centre’s decision. He also sought an alternate prayer to commute his death sentence on the ground of long delay in considering the mercy petition.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had said the mercy petition can’t be considered as it was filed by another organisation and not Rajoana himself and that it can’t be decided until the appeals of other convicts were decided by the top court.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Nataraj, representing the Centre, has 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.