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Beant Singh assassination: Sentencing tomorrow
July 30, 2007 17:08 IST
The Special Court of R K Sondhi reserved its verdict on the quantum of sentence till Tuesday after hearing the argument of CBI and the defence lawyer.
The CBI counsel sought capital punishment for all the accused, barring Naseeb Singh, in the assassination case of the then chief minister in the Congress-ruled Punjab, who was killed along with 17 others, including human bomb Dilawar Singh.
Jagtar Singh Hawara [Images], Balwant Singh, Shamsher Singh, Lakhwinder Singh and Gurmeet Singh were convicted under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC while Naseeb Singh was held guilty under the Explosives Substances Act on July 27 after a trial spanning 11 years. Another accused in the case, Navjot Singh, who was acquitted, has been taken to Delhi in connection with another case registered against him.
Media was not allowed to enter the jail premises during the proceeding in the court. Talking to reporters outside the jail building, the defence counsel said they had sought life imprisonment for the five accused and pleaded that Naseeb Singh should not be given more than ten years of sentence, which in any case he has already completed.
Defence Counsel Amarjit Singh Chahal and Arvind Thakur said they had argued that killing of Beant Singh was not rarest of the rare case and cannot be regarded as one fit for awarding capital punishment.
Calling Beant Singh's rule "worse than that of the Mughals and the British," Chahal argued "...keeping in view the political, social, religious and other circumstances at that time, it has to be accepted that the killing of Beant Singh was not for any personal reasons."
"Beant Singh came to power by securing votes to the extent of mere 6 per cent as the other major political parties boycotted the Punjab elections held in 1992... during the period of Beant Singh as chief minister and upto his death there were countless false encounters wherein innocent Sikhs were killed.
"The violation of law was so enormous that it surpassed the Mughal period," Chahal argued. The defence also drew similarity between the Beant case with late Rajiv Gandhi's killing, saying both the cases have "strong political considerations."
"Beant Singh represented no one in Punjab and was a tool in the hands of the Central government... the forced disappearances at the hands of Punjab Police, custodial deaths, tortures in police stations, raping of women and killing of young innocent people at the hands of Punjab police took place," the counsel submitted before the Court.
While arguing in length the "acts of oppression" carried out during the Beant Singh regime, the counsel said "the answer to oppression came in the shape of late (human bomb) Dilawar Singh.
"So the killing of late Beant Singh was not a pure and simple murder, but a divine killing that has been done by all incarnations worshipped in India... so as per the Indian Penal Code the assassination constitutes the offence of murder but the system of governing of that time itself compelled the people to act in such a manner.
The quantum of punishment must be decided by taking into account these compelling circumstances," the defence counsel further submitted.
The counsel Arvind Thakur said they had opposed CBI's contention that capital punishment should be awarded to the five accused on the grounds that there was only circumstantial evidence against them.
"Even after Indira Gandhi's [Images] killing, Khariti Lal and Neki Chand, charged with killing several innocents during the 1984 riots which broke out in Delhi, they were only awarded life sentence and capital punishment was not given to them," he said.
He said on Monday they had also given another instance where 17 police offcials were killed in Warangal by the Naxalites in 1983, but the guilty were not given death penalty later.
"Even in the famous Meham episode in Haryana over 12 years back, in which many people lost their lives, the guilty were not awarded death penalty," he said.
The trial was marred by the escape of three accused from the Burail jail here. On the night of January 21, 2004, Hawara, Jagtar Singh Tara and Paramjit Singh Bheora and another inmate escaped from the jail by digging a tunnel. Later, Hawara and Bheora were arrested.
Trial against Bheora is still on while Tara is absconding. The trial in the case was against nine persons, including "mastermind" of the conspiracy Hawara, the operations chief of the Babbar Khalsa International.
The conspiracy of all the accused was unearthed when a car painter Balwinder Singh identified the vehicle used in the blast, carried out by the terrorists in the Civil secretariat here as he painted it. Meanwhile, tight security arrangements had been made around the jail complex and police had been deployed along the roads leading to the jail.
Late Beant Singh's daughter and former Punjab Minister Gurkanwal Kaur was again not allowed to go inside the jail premises on Monday.
"They have disallowed me to go inside despite my telling them I can go being the kin of the late leader," she said. Some kith and kin of the accused including mother of Hawara could be seen near the jail premises.
The media too, had to face difficulty as unlike Saturday their vehicles were stopped nearly 600 metres before the jail entry. A heated argument broke out between some mediapersons and a jail official who directed the police to keep the scribes at a distance.Later, on the intervention of a senior police officials the media were allowed to walk down till the entry gate of the jail where they waited till the counsels came out and briefed them.