The Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to commute the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was convicted for the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, to life imprisonment.
Officials from the ministry confirmed the development on Monday and said a decision was taken to commute Balwant Singh Rajoanav’s death sentence to life imprisonment.
"A decision has been taken to commute the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana. The process of issuing a formal notification is underway," a home ministry official said. This is being seen as an “act of grace” ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
The approval was given on Saturday night. The move comes two days after the BJP in Haryana refused a poll pact with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), its long-standing ally.
Rajoana claimed he and his colleague, constable Dilawar Singh, had a pact to “lay down their lives.” Dilawar Singh was the ‘human bomb’, who blew himself up, killing Beant Singh as the latter stepped out of his office in the Punjab and Haryana Civil Secretariat, Chandigarh. As per the plot, Rajoana would have blown himself up had Dilwara failed in his attempt.
The Union Government on March 29, 2012, stayed Rajoana’s hanging, which was slated for March 31, 2012, after the SGPC filed a mercy petition.The then Punjab Government and most political parties in the state backed the move.
Parkash Singh Badal, who was then CM, and his son and Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal handed over a mercy petition to the President, seeking clemency for Rajoana. The President referred the matter to the MHA, which stayed Rajoana’s execution. The Home Ministry has also approved the release of eight Sikh detainees charged under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act that was in force during 1985-1995. The Punjab Government had suggested nine names.
Soon after the development, Congress lashed out at the Centre while Shiromani Akali Dal welcomed the change.
The Congress questioned the government on "what is this new very-very cheap definition of pure politics" for commuting the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was convicted for the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, to life imprisonment.
Addressing a press conference, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi asked what was the BJP government's "commitment to basic values and principles".
Referrring to Rajoana, he said: "Here is a heinous offence of a constitutional post holder... here is a party which ignores the loss of 16 other lives."
On August 31, 1995, the then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh was killed in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh. Sixteen others also lost their lives in the terror attack in which Punjab Police employee Dilawar Singh had acted as a human bomb.