‘It’s a good day to act’: SC urges the Center to decide on Rajoana’s clemency petition before January 26
On Friday, the Supreme Court urged the Center to decide on an eight-year clemency plea from a man sentenced to death in two weeks. The convict, Balwant Singh Rajoana, has been in jail for more than 25 years after being convicted of setting off a bomb that killed former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in August 1995.
Rajoana had approached the Supreme Court last year, complaining about the delay by the central government in processing his clemency petition, filed on March 25, 2012, with the President of India. The Supreme Court on December 4 inquired about the delay with the Center and came to know that the proposal for its commutation has not yet been processed.
The Interior Ministry reasoned that since other co-defendants involved in the crime with Rajoana had submitted appeals, which were pending before the Supreme Court, a decision on Rajoana’s clemency petition was suspended. Rajoana had not filed any appeal challenging his death sentence in the higher court.
On Friday, Additional Attorney General (ASG) KM Nataraj told a three-judge court headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde that the file has been processed by the Interior Ministry. “We have processed the file on our side. It has been sent to the competent authority for a decision ”.
The court, also composed of Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, asked the law enforcement officer: “Give (Rajoana) some relief before January 26. It is a good day to act. If possible, place an order before January 25. “Hoping for a positive outcome, the bank released the matter for hearing on January 25.
Lead attorney Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for Rajoana said: “The eight-year delay in processing the clemency petition is fatal. This is sufficient for the commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment as decided by the Supreme Court in the Shatrughan Chauhan case in 2014 ”. In this judgment handed down by a constitutional court, excessive and undue delay in deciding clemency petitions was considered a reason to commute the sentence of those sentenced to death.
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Rajoana was sentenced to death on July 27, 2007, when the trial court found him and his associate Jagtar Singh Hawara guilty of killing the former prime minister by unleashing a bomb on the Civil Registry of Punjab and Haryana on 31 July. August 1995. Later, on October 12, 2010, the Punjab and Haryana high court upheld the death penalty in Rajoana and freed Hawara from the guillotine.
In his petition filed through lawyer Rupesh Kumar, Rajoana informed the court that on September 27, 2019, the center wrote a letter to Punjab’s chief secretary saying that Rajoana’s clemency petition would be processed in accordance with Article 72 of the Constitution coinciding with the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev. When the same was not done, Rajoana knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court to remind the Center of his determination.