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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Centre slammed for ignoring commutation plea


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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the Centre for not considering the commutation petition filed by death row convict Balwant Singh Rajoana, accused of assassinating Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.

The court asked the government to take immediate steps on the plea filed by Rajoana, seeking commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment.

“Please take immediate steps on the issue. Whatever decision you (Centre) have to take, you take. But you have to take a decision,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said.

The Supreme Court also said that on May 2 the court had given the Centre two months to apprise the court about the steps it had taken. But still no step has been taken. “What is this?” the bench, also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and JB Pardiwala, asked.

Rajoana moved the Supreme Court 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 eight other convicts to mark the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Rajoana sought the implementation of the 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.

Taking exception to the lackadaisical attitude of the Centre, the Supreme Court said: “You have to take immediate steps.

“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 bench said and fixed the matter for further hearing to September 30.

Rajaona was sentenced to death by a lower court in Punjab for his role in the assassination of Beant Singh. The Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court upheld the sentence.

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