'Last chance': Supreme Court gives Centre two weeks to decide on Beant Singh killer's mercy plea

The Centre, saying it is examining the issue, earlier sought three weeks to decide on the mercy plea of convict Balwant Singh Rajoana

Press Trust of India January 25, 2021 17:32:26 IST
'Last chance': Supreme Court gives Centre two weeks to decide on Beant Singh killer's mercy plea

File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday granted last chance to the Centre to decide within two weeks on Balwant S Rajoana's plea seeking commutation of the death penalty in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh's assassination case.

The Centre sought three weeks to decide on the plea saying the government is examining the issue and needs time under the present circumstances, without elaborating further.

A bench of Chief Justice Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, "Why does government need three weeks, what is it doing?"

The bench said that three weeks' time sounds unreasonable to us. "We had told you to do it by 26 January. Today is 25 January.'

Mehta said that under the present circumstances, it is advisable to have the matter after three weeks.

The bench said, "We are giving you last chance. Two weeks."

During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Rajoana, said that this man is in jail for last over 25 years and his mercy petition is pending for the last nine years.

Mehta submitted that the government is examining it and urged the top court to have the matter after three weeks, under the present circumstances.

Rohatgi said that he is opposing the submission of the Solicitor General.

The bench told Mehta, "Why do you need three weeks? What are you doing?. Rohatgi said that the bench has already given them long rope and enough time was given to them.

"This man is in jail for a long time", he said. Mehta submitted that Rajoana is in jail for killing a Chief Minister.

Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, was convicted for his involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab civil secretariat that killed Beant Singh and 16 others in 1995.

The top court had on 8 January, asked the Centre to take a decision before January 26 on Rajoana's plea for commutation of his death penalty in the case.

It had given two-three weeks and asked the Centre to complete the process before January 26 saying that January 26 is a good day and it will be appropriate if the government takes a decision before that.

Rajoana's counsel had argued that his client's mercy petition is pending since 2012 and the top court has held that the death sentence of a person if delayed for over eight years, can be commuted.

The Centre had assured the top court that a decision will be taken by then and the file will be sent to the President by then.

The apex court had on 4 December, last year questioned the Centre over delay in sending to the President the proposal for commuting the Rajoana's death sentence.

It had asked the Centre to apprise it as to when the authority would send the proposal in this regard to the President under Article 72 of the Constitution.

The article deals with the power of President to grant pardon, suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.

The apex court had noted that a letter was sent from the Ministry of Home Affairs to Punjab chief secretary on September 7 last year intimating that a proposal would be sent to the President to commute the death sentence of Rajoana.

His plea sought direction for expeditious disposal of the MHA proposal.

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