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Court orders Rajoana hanging on Saturday

Last updated on: March 27, 2012 18:13 IST

A Sessions court on Tuesday rejected the petition seeking deferment of the hanging of  Balwant Singh Rajoana, the prime accused in the 1995 Beant Singh murder case, and ordered carrying out of the sentence on March 31 as scheduled.

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 5 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 Tuesday'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.

Following intelligence reports that there could be trouble following hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana on March 31, the Prakash Singh Badal government has put the entire state on high alert to deal with any untoward incident and have directed the state police to maintain law and order.

The former chief minister of Punjab was killed on August 31, 1995 when a bomb was detonated soon after he accepted a box from one of the terrorists, who was posing as a visitor. Singh was was about to leave the administrative block of Punjab secretariat. The box had contained a bomb. Sixteen others were also killed in the blast.

Rajoana was sentenced to death in 2007 by a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Chandigarh for his role in the assassination. The court had directed that he should be executed on March 31. The designated court also issued a contempt notice against Patiala jail superintendent L S Jakhar, who had refused to carry out the order saying that it was illegal.

Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal is due to meet Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to seek his intervention in the matter and recommend that Rajoana should be pardoned to ward off a difficult situation in Punjab. He is also likely to call on President Pratibha Patil to discuss the matter.

A delegation of Shiromani Akali Dal-Babbar headed by Gurcharan Singh Babbar will meet the President on March 30 and submit to a memorandum asking her for pardoning of Rajoana, a former constable of the Punjab police.

Speaking to rediff.com on phone from Amritsar, Jathedar of Akal Takhat, the highest seat of temporal authority, Giani Gurbachan Singh said the Akali government should seek unconditional release of Rajoana.

"Why did you take so much time to appeal at the eleventh hour?" We have taken up the issue when the time was right. We could not have done so earlier," he quipped.

 Rajoana in a statement denied that he had ever asked for help from Akalis. "I do not want anybody to help me," he said. As far as Rajoana is concerned, he wants to be hanged.

The Shiromani Akali Dal has filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court to seek review of verdict of the sessions court of Chandigarh. "The petition is likely to be heard on Wednesday. We hope the apex court will not disappoint us." 

(With inputs from PTI)

Onkar Singh in New Delhi