The Supreme Court has slammed the political parties of Punjab for playing death row politics on the hanging of Babbar Khalsa terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was sentenced to death for the assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995. The Centre had, yesterday, stayed Rajoana's hanging, following a mercy petition filed by Sikh body, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), that has been actively backed by the Punjab government and other political parties in the state.
"We would have liked to avoid everything. But what has happened for the last four days in a particular state is a telling situation. If a decision was taken at an appropriate time, public exchequer would have been saved many crores. When a person is convicted of a pre-dawn murder of a chief minister... It has been noticed that a person is guilty of terrorism and in this case found support of political parties. Parties have garnered support from such persons. How can they now leave them?" the court observed.
The court made these observations while hearing the plea by Devender Pal Singh Bhullar challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the President. Bhullar was convicted and awarded death sentence for his involvement in a bomb blast at Youth Congress office in Delhi 1993. Bhullar had filed the mercy petition January 14, 2003 which was rejected by the President on May 25, 2011.
A court in Chandigarh had ruled on Tuesday that Rajoana should be hanged as scheduled on March 31. The court was hearing a plea from the Patiala Jail Superintendent.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal yesterday met with President Pratibha Patil and handed over a mercy petition on behalf of the state government seeking clemency for Rajoana. The President's office later forwarded his petition to the Union Home Ministry, which will decide on the matter in due course of time. As per law, the petition would then be sent to the Law Ministry and the Punjab government for comments after which, it would be forwarded to the President with recommendations of the Home Ministry. The President's office already has 18 mercy petitions pending with it.
Mr Badal has been under immense pressure in the last few days with radical Sikh groups demanding clemency for Rajoana. Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), said yesterday, "We are not politicising the issue. We want clemency for Rajoana. We are meeting the President. We have also sought time from the Prime Minister." Mr Badal stressed that not just the Akalis but the Congress, and other political parties in Punjab, were also supporting the SGPC's demand.
A bandh in the state yesterday, called by radical Sikh groups to protest against the scheduled hanging, threw normal life out of gear - forcing schools and shops to shut down. Saffron-coloured flags could be seen flying on buildings, houses and shops. In Patiala, Shiv Sainiks clashed with protesters, and National Highway 1 was blocked. Trains between Ferozepur and Jalandhar were also blocked with protesters sitting on the rail track near Ferozepur station.
A former Punjab Police constable, Mr Rajoana has refused to defend himself in the Beant Singh assassination case saying that he was involved. Beant Singh, Punjab chief minister between 1992 and 1995 and largely credited with wiping out terrorism from the state, was assassinated by a human bomb, Dilawar Singh, at the high security Punjab civil secretariat in Chandigarh on August 31, 1995.
While Hawara was the mastermind of the assassination, Rajoana was the second human bomb to be used in case the first assassin failed. Rajoana, during the entire 11-year trial, had admitted that he alone was responsible for the killing of Beant Singh. The family members of Beant Singh have also stated that they had forgiven Rajoana and that his death sentence be converted to life imprisonment.