Chandigarh/Patiala, Mar 27: A Chandigarh court today ordered that Balwant Singh Rajoana, the death row convict in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, be hanged as scheduled on March 31, a verdict which is to be challenged by the Punjab government.
As the ruling Akali leadership pushed for clemency for the Babbar Khalsa International militant, Additional District and Sessions Judge Shalini Singh Nagpal returned the court order for execution of Rajoana in the killing of Beant Singh in 1995 after rejecting the petition of Superintendent of Patiala Central Jail seeking deferment of his hanging.
“The execution order is returned for compliance,” the judge said in a brief order pronounced in the open court. The death warrant should be executed as directed earlier, the Court observed during the proceedings which lasted around three minutes.
Shortly after the order was pronounced, Punjab’s Additional Advocate General Anoopinder Singh Grewal said,” We will approach the high court as soon as we get the (sessions) court order.”
Rajoana himself snubbed the Akali leadership asking them not to save him from the gallows, claiming they were pushing for a pardon out of fear of losing support of Sikhs.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday said he would meet President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking their intervention to grant pardon for Rajoana.
Punjab police and paramilitary forces conducted flag marches across the state apprehending violence if the execution of Rajoana is carried out.
Various Sikh organizations have given a bandh call in Punjab tomorrow in view of the expected hanging of Rajoana who has neither challenged his conviction nor filed any mercy petition.
The sessions court had on March five directed hanging of Rajoana, lodged in the Central Jail at Patiala, on March 31.
It also issued a show cause notice returnable April 16 to the Superintendent of the Central Jail L R Jakhar who pleaded inability to carry out the execution.
The court in Chandigarh also returned the warrant of execution for compliance.
In a brief order, Additional District and Sessions Judge Shalini Singh Nagpal said “the execution order is returned for compliance.”
Earlier, the court had on March five ordered execution of Rajoana, a Babbar Khalsa militant lodged in the Patiala Central Jail, on March 31.
The Judge issued a show cause notice for April 16 to the Superintendent of the Patiala Central Jail L R Jakhar.
Additional Advocate General Anoopinder Singh Grewal, who represented the Jail Superintendent, told mediapersons outside the court that the state would move the Punjab and Haryana Court against today’s order.
In the petition, the Jail Superintendent had submitted that the death warrant could not be executed as the petition of another convict, Lakhwinder Singh, in the Beant Singh case was pending before the Supreme Court.
CBI counsel R K Handa and Rajan Malhotra had contended that Jakhar had no locus standi to challenge the execution warrant issued by the court.
On the plea that they would be moving the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Judge said “I have closed the order.” The death warrant should be executed as directed earlier, the Judge said during the proceedings lasting barely three minutes.
The Additional Advocate General said the hanging of Rajoana could not take place as a mercy petition filed by the SGPC seeking clemency for him was before the President. He said the petition of Lakhwinder Singh was also pending before the Supreme Court.
The Jail Superintendent told reporters that they would move the higher court for relief.
“I am a government servant and I am supposed to do what is according to the law,” he said.
On his locus standi in the case, Jakhar said there was a judgement of the Supreme Court in a similar case which bestowed on him legal rights to become a party in the Rajoana case.
In a related development, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today dismissed a petition filed by the Khalra Mission, a Human Rights body, seeking relief for Rajoana.
A Division Bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and K S Bindal dismissed the petition filed by D S Pheruman, an advocate, who represened the Mission.
The Bench said the Mission had no locus standi to file a PIL in the case.
The CBI counsel had yesterday submitted the attempt of the Jail Superintendent was only an attempt to present facts in a “distorted manner” and confuse things.
The CBI had produced a letter of agreement between Punjab and Union Territory Chandigarh under which prisoners like Rajoana can be kept. It said the agreement had been renewed in 2010.
The special CBI court had awarded death sentence to Rajoana and Jagtar Singh Hawara on August 1, 2007. Lakhwinder Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Shamsher Singh were sentenced to life imprisonment for hatching the conspiracy to kill Beant Singh.
Rajoana did not appeal against the judgment. The death penalty of Hawara, who filed an appeal against it, was commuted to life term.