Supreme Court allows 6 more weeks to Centre to decide Rajoana’s mercy plea

Sushree Mohanty

The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that President Ram Nath Kovind has begun the process of analyzing the mercy requests filed for Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was granted capital punishment for the assassination of then Punjab Chief Minsiter Beant Singh in 1995.

The Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, told the bench presided by the Chief Justice of India that the Centre has begun the process and the President will take a decision on the mercy plea in upcoming days.

The Supreme Court allowed the Centre a six-week time to settle on the plea in the interest of Rajoana.

Rajoana, who is a former constable in Punjab Police, was indicted for his contribution in a blast outside the Punjab Civil Secretariat in 1995. The blast had killed Beant Singh and 16 other individuals.

During the previous hearing, the court had asked the Centre to settle on mercy plea requests of death row convict Rajoana within fourteen days, saying this it would be the “last chance” for them to push forward on the matter.

The three-judge bench also comprising of Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian was hearing a writ request filed by Balwant Singh requesting for the commutation of his capital punishment on the ground that his appeal had been pending before the President of India for more than eight years.

The Solicitor General on January 25, 2021 had said that time was needed as a “decision either ways will have some repercussions on the present circumstances”.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Rajoana, had prior submitted that the applicant has been in custody for almost 25 years and that his mercy plea supplication has been pending before the President for more than eight years.

Relying on the outcomes of the instances of Shatrughan Chouhan and Sriharan cases, he argued that Rajoana is also entitled for commutation of his capital punishment.

In 2014, the Supreme Court had allowed for the mercy petition of Perarivalan and two others who had were convicted for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and had spent time in prison for over twenty years as death row convicts.

Their capital punishment was later changed to life imprisonment due to delay in delivering a verdict on their mercy petition appeals.

The head of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) , Sukhbir Badal has also constantly requested the Centre to allow Balwant Singh Rajoana’s mercy plea.

“This humanitarian gesture would be in conformation with civilised values and justice as Bhai Rajoana had already served more than the effective equivalent of a life sentence,” he had stated.