M A I N   N E W S

Punjab refuses to hang Rajoana
Badal to meet PM, Prez, seek their intervention
Naveen S Garewal/TNS

Chandigarh, March 26
The Punjab Government will not hang Balwant Singh Rajoana, a Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) militant, condemned to death on charges of assassinating former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. Making a statement on the floor of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal cited legal infirmities, constitutional inconsistencies and jurisdictional issues that forbid the government from taking action in the matter.

Badal said his government would support the SGPC petition seeking conversion of Rajoana’s death sentence to a life term. Reading out a written statement as soon as the House assembled for a debate on the Governor’s address, the chief minister said that he would meet the President and the Prime Minister to seek their intervention to save Rajoana from the gallows.

The Chief Minister said there were legal infirmities and the order was against the spirit of the Indian Constitution. Pointing out lacunas in the direction to hang Rajoana, he said that the case pertaining to the assassination of former chief minister Beant Singh was still pending before the Supreme Court. “What if the Supreme Court has a bearing on Rajoana too, no one can return life after it is taken away”.

Badal stated that the case pertained to an incident that took place in Chandigarh. The proceedings went on there. Rajoana has been lodged in Patiala jail. Therefore, the Superintendent of Jail, Patiala, has no jurisdiction to hang Rajoana.

Referring to other cases including that of co-accused in the same case Lakhwinder Singh Lakha, whose appeal is pending in the apex court, he said the judgement in those cases can have important ramifications in Rajoana case too.

He said the Patiala Jail Superintendent had appeared before the court in Chandigarh and expressed his inability of execute the order directing him to hang Rajoana. (The court has reserved its judgement on the issue for Tuesday). In view of the charged atmosphere in the state he said, he thought it proper to lay facts before the House.

He said the Jail Superintendent could not go ahead with the hanging with closed eyes. After taking the rules and legal issues into consideration, he wrote to the Special CBI Court judge in Chandigarh expressing his inability to carry out the order. Beant Singh’s family has also said it had no objection if Rajoana’s sentence was commuted.

“Even Congress President Captain Amarinder Singh had issued a statement in favour of clemency for Rajoana. The SGPC has also petitioned the President”, he said adding even the Advocate General has advised that there should be no action till a final decision of the Supreme court.

He assured the House that the communal harmony and peace would be maintained at all cost.

He appealed to all Punjabis to maintain peace in the state. “This is a sensitive issue that can affect future of generations to come. We do not want to leave a legacy and atmosphere that is anything but peace. I appeal to all to maintain peace and not let the issue be exploited to disturb peace and harmony”.

The SGPC sent a petition to the president of India through the Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil yesterday after an emergency meeting of the SAD’s core committee asked the SGPC to immediately file a clemency appeal for Rajoana before the president.




Court verdict today
Aneesha Sareen/TNS

Chandigarh, March 26
With the Patiala jail authorities returning the death warrants for Balwant Singh Rajoana’s hanging back to the Chandigah court for the second time today, the Court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Shalini Nagpal reserved the final orders deciding the execution for tomorrow.

Heated arguments were witnessed in the court when the Patiala jail superintendent filed a petition strongly challenging the execution warrants. The CBI opposed the plea saying that the jail superintendent has no locus standi and is not a competent authority to challenge the death sentence. The CBI also said that the non-compliance of orders amounted to the contempt of court.

Patiala jail superintendent LS Jakhar submitted before the court that the death warrant could not be executed as the matter of other convict, Lakhwinder Singh, in the former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh assassination case, was still pending before the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court of India has, in several judgments, extended the benefit of acquittal or lesser sentence to the other co-accused although they had not filed an appeal. It is necessary to await the outcome of the matter in the Apex Court before executing the death warrant of Balwant Singh Rajoana,” said Additional Advocate General Anupinder Singh Grewal.

“If some error/omission is committed in such a case, then it would be impossible to rectify the same because no one could give back life to a person,” added the counsel.

Jakhar had also raised the issue that Punjab had no territorial jurisdiction in the matter of hanging Rajoana.

CBI counsels RK Handa and Rajan Malhotra contended before the court that Jakhar had no locus standi to challenge the execution warrants issued by the court.

“It is surprising that the jail authorities are shielding a convict. They are presenting facts in a distorted manner,” said CBI counsel Rajan Malhotra.



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