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Last Chance: SC to Centre Regarding Rajoana ’s Mercy Plea

Devanshi Doshi

The Supreme Court today gave the Central government a last chance of two weeks to decide on the mercy plea of Balwant Singh Rajoana who was awarded the death penalty for the 1995 assassination of the then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who is representing the Centre, which is supposed to take a decision on mercy pleas filed on behalf of Balwant Singh Rajoana, submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde that the government is examining the matter and it would not be prudent to decide on Rajoana's mercy plea, as it could have some repercussions given the present situation. Mehta sought three weeks' time in the matter. Mehta insisted on three weeks' time in the matter. The Chief Justice replied that the court is giving last chance to the Centre in the matter. "Two weeks," said the Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice said, "What are you doing Mr Mehta? Why three weeks? We told you to decide it before 26 January, today is 25 January." 

The top court had earlier, too, pulled up the Centre for dithering on the matter. In a hearing on December 4, 2020, it had cited a letter written by the Union Home Ministry to the Punjab government in September 2019, in which the government said that a proposal to commute Rajoana's death sentence would be sent to the President, reported NDTV. 

"You had written to the Punjab government that his death sentence will be commuted on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti," the Supreme Court bench said back then. 

Appearing for Rajoana, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said the man had been in jail for over 25 years and his mercy petition had been pending for the past nine years. 

Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, was convicted of involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab civil secretariat in Chandigarh that killed Beant Singh and 16 others on August 31, 1995. He was awarded the death sentence by a Chandigarh court in July 2007, which was later upheld by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2010. Rajoana did not appeal against that decision, but instead filed a mercy petition before the President.

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