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Supreme Court grants two week’s time to Centre to decide on Rajoana death sentence commutation

The bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S.Bopanna and V. Ramasubramnanian had earlier asked the Union government to decide upon commuting the death sentence of Rajoana by Republic Day.

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The Supreme Court on Monday gave two weeks to the Centre to decide on the mercy plea of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a former Punjab Police Constable convicted in former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case.

The bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S.Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian had earlier asked the Union government to decide upon commuting the death sentence of Rajoana by Republic Day. 

Today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the government was examining the issue and sought three weeks from the court to decide the matter. 

On behalf of the petitioner, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi opposed Mehta’s request and said that mercy plea of Rajoana has been pending for over eight years. He has been in jail for 25 years.

Chief Justice Bobde, however, thought three weeks’ time was unreasonable and agreed to grant two weeks as a last chance for the government to come to a decision.

The petition has been filed on behalf of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, who was convicted for his involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab civil secretariat that killed Beant Singh and 16 others in 1995.

It has been submitted that the petitioner has been in custody for nearly 25 years and that his mercy plea before the President has been kept undecided for over eight years. Therefore, Rajoana is entitled to commutation of death penalty as per the Supreme Court decisions in Shatrughan Chouhan and Sriharan cases on account of delay in deciding the mercy petition.

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Maintaining that pendency of appeals by co-accused has no bearing on Presidential pardon granted to a death-row convict, the Supreme Court had on December 4 questioned the Centre over the delay in sending a proposal to the President for commuting Rajoana’s death penalty.

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