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President is seized of Rajoana’s mercy plea, Centre tells Supreme Court

The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that President Ram Nath Kovind is seized of the matter pertaining to Balwant S Rajoana’s plea seeking commutation of the death penalty awarded to him in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh’s assassination case, and a decision would be taken on it.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, that Rajoana had assassinated a former chief minister on the issue of ‘Khalistan’.

“The process has started and the President will take a decision. This is a case where the convict is accused of assassinating a former CM on the issue of ‘Khalistan’,” Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

He said that in the present circumstances, six weeks be granted to the Centre in the matter. The Bench allowed Mehta’s request and adjourned the matter by six weeks.

The apex court had on January 25 granted the “last chance” to the Centre to decide within two weeks on Rajoana’s plea seeking commutation of death penalty in the case.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Rajoana, had told the apex court that “this man is in jail for over 25 years and his mercy plea has been pending for the past nine years”.

Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, was convicted of his involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab civil secretariat that killed Beant Singh and 16 others in 1995.

The top court had on January 8 asked the Centre to take a decision before January 26 on Rajoana’s plea for commutation of his death penalty in the case.

It had said that January 26 is a good day and it would be appropriate if the government took a decision before that.

Rajoana’s counsel had earlier argued that his client’s mercy petition is pending since 2012 and the top court had held that the death sentence of a person, if delayed for over eight years, could be commuted.

The apex court had on December 4 last year questioned the Centre over delay in sending to the President the proposal for commuting Rajoana’s death sentence.It had asked the Centre to inform it as to when the authority would send the proposal to the President.

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