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Supreme Court Pulls Up Centre For Not Deciding Mercy Petition Of Death Row Convict Balwant Singh Rajoana Within Time Limit

Rintu Mariam Biju
28 Sep 2022 7:52 AM GMT
Supreme Court Pulls Up Centre For Not Deciding Mercy Petition Of Death Row Convict Balwant Singh Rajoana Within Time Limit
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The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday took exception to the lackadaisical attitude of the Central government in not considering the mercy petition filed by death row convict Balwant Singh Rajoana, in the Chief Minister Beant Singh assassination case. On May 2, the Supreme Court had directed the Central Government to decide the mercy plea of death row convict Balwant Singh Rajoana within...

The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday took exception to the lackadaisical attitude of the Central government in not considering the mercy petition filed by death row convict Balwant Singh Rajoana, in the Chief Minister Beant Singh assassination case.

On May 2, the Supreme Court had directed the Central Government to decide the mercy plea of death row convict Balwant Singh Rajoana within 2 months, without being influenced by the fact that the appeals filed by other convicts in the Chief Minister Beant Singh assassination case are pending.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, Justices Ravindra Bhat and JB Pardiwala was considering Rajoana's plea to commute death penalty for delay in considering his mercy plea.

Rajoana filed the writ petition in 2020 saying that the Central Government had in 2019 announced its decision to commute his death penalty and grant remission to 8 other convicts to mark the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. He sought for the implementation of that decision. He also sought an alternate prayer to commute his death sentence on the ground of long delay in considering the mercy petition.

During the hearing today, the Court was initially not inclined to grant the Additional Solicitor General, KM Natraj's request for an adjournment. He sought for a later date as the matter was pending consideration. The Court in response, said that a total of four months had lapsed since the May 2 order.

"We gave you two months. And now, two more months have passed. You raised two technical issues. We told you please don't wait for that. He is not interested in filing appeal", the Court observed.

During the previous hearing, the Court had rejected the stand of the MHA. In the affidavit filed on April 30, the MHA took two preliminary objections :

the mercy petition cannot be considered as it has been filed by another organization and not the convict himself.

the mercy petition cannot be decided until the appeals filed by other convicts in the case before the Supreme Court are not disposed (Rajoana has not challenged his conviction or sentence, either before the High Court or the Supreme Court).

Noting that the matter was last taken up on May 2, the court observed, "This is what happens with Registry. Once we adjourn it, it will come up only after 6 months."

Though, the Court can't tell the Centre what decision has to be taken, the latter certainly should take a decision in the matter, the Bench observed.

The Court then directed a responsible officer from the concerned Department to file an affidavit indicating the status in the matter.

"…A time period of 2 months was granted to take a decision in May 2 order, it had expired long back. However, as submitted by KM Natraj, ASG, a decision has not been taken by concerned authorities. As per the ASG's request, we adjourn the matter to Friday as first item on board. In the meanwhile, we direct a responsible officer from the concerned department to file an affidavit indicating the progress in the matter. The affidavit to be filed tomorrow."

The matter will be next taken up on Friday.

Case Title: Balwant Singh v Union of India and Ors| WP(Crl) 261/2020

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