The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected relief to Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was sentenced to death for the assassination of then-Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995, and urged the Center to take a call on his mercy petition at an appropriate time.
A bench of Justices BR Gavai, Vikram Nath, and Sanjay Karol directed the Centre’s appropriate officials to decide on Rajoana’s mercy petition as soon as possible.
“The competent authority, as an when they deem necessary may deal with the mercy petition and take a further decision. Petition disposed accordingly,” the bench said in its verdict.
Rajoana had petitioned the Supreme Court to commute his death sentence due to the delay in examining his compassion plea. Previously, the Supreme Court questioned the Central Government for delaying to make a decision on Rajoana’s mercy appeal.
Last year, the Supreme Court directed the central government to decide on Rajoana’s mercy petition, which sought to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment due to his 26-year imprisonment.
The Supreme Court stated that it cannot tell the Center what choice must be made, but that the government must make a decision in the case. Previously, it had asked the Centre to decide Rajoana’s plea without being influenced by the fact that other convicts’ appeals in the case are pending in the Supreme Court.
Rajoana has petitioned the Supreme Court for the implementation of a September 2019 judgement by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to commute his death sentence to life in prison.
He stated that the Central Government announced its decision to commute his death sentence and provide remission to eight other inmates in 2019 to commemorate Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.
He had requested the implementation of that ruling, as well as a commuted death sentence due to the lengthy delay in evaluating the compassion petition.
The Supreme Court had ruled that the Centre’s position that the proposal for commutation of Rajoana’s death sentence, a former Punjab Police constable, was not processed due to the pending appeals of co-accused in the Beant Singh homicide case was untenable.
The bench had stated that once the government has chosen to request a Presidential pardon for a condemned man, the Supreme Court appeals of his co-accused cannot be used to delay the procedure launched under Article 72.
Balwant Singh Rajoana, the defendant, was condemned to death for the murder of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who was killed in a bomb blast in Chandigarh on August 31, 1995.
On the occasion of Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th birth anniversary, the Centre decided on September 27, 2019, to reduce Rajoana’s death sentence to life in prison. Despite the passage of more than two years, the decision has yet to be implemented.
Rajoana was sentenced to death by a Chandigarh court on July 27, 2007, which was maintained by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on October 12, 2010. Rajoana has not filed an appeal against the decision and instead filed a mercy petition before the President.