SGPC wants president to grant clemency to Sikh terrorist
Chandigarh, March 26 (IANS) The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has filed a clemency petition with President Pratibha Patil for Sikh terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is facing death for former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh's assassination, sources said.
Sources in the SGPC, the mini-parliament of Sikh religious affairs, said Monday the plea was filed through Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil.
Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal had Sunday evening said it was willing "to go to any extent" to save Rajoana and asked the state government and the SGPC "to take all possible legal and other steps" to secure clemency for him.
A court in Chandigarh has issued the death warrant for March 31 and asked the authorities in Patiala jail in Punjab, 80 km from here, to execute Rajoana. A Babbar Khalsa International terrorist, he has refused to defend himself in any court saying that he "be hanged to death for the cause of Khalistan" (a separate Sikh homeland).
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar and other senior Akali Dal leaders are expected to seek an appointment with President Patil in New Delhi this week to seek clemency for Rajoana.
At an emergency meeting here of the party's core committee Sunday evening, chaired by party president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, members expressed satisfaction with the decision of the state government not to implement the March 31 warrants of execution issued by a court in Chandigarh recently.
The core committee had asked the SGPC to immediately file a clemency appeal for Rajoana before the president.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was present at the meeting, disclosed that he would make a special statement on the subject in the assembly Monday.
The Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion, had last week asked the Punjab government and the SGPC to initiate steps to save Rajoana from the gallows.
Rajoana was awarded the death sentence by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court here July 2007 along with another terrorist, Jagtar Singh Hawara, in the Beant Singh assassination case.
The former chief minister (1992-95), who was largely credited with wiping out terrorism from Punjab, was assassinated by a human bomb, Dilawar Singh, at the high security Punjab civil secretariat here Aug 31, 1995.
While Hawara was the mastermind of the assassination, Rajoana was the second human bomb to be used in case the first assassin failed. Rajoana, during the entire 11-year trial, had admitted that he alone was responsible for the killing of Beant Singh.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had October 2010 upheld the death sentence for Rajoana but changed the capital punishment given to Hawara to life imprisonment. Rajoana had refused to challenge the death sentence awarded to him.
An Akali Dal spokesman said: "The core committee fully endorsed the steps taken by the Punjab government in this regard so far. The core committee took note of the fact that the warrants of execution against Bhai Rajoana had been returned since it was legally not possible to execute them."
He said the Akali Dal endorsed the efforts being taken by the government to secure clemency for Rajoana.
"The party is prepared to go to any extent to secure clemency for Bhai Rajoana so that the hard earned atmosphere of peace and communal harmony in the state is not disturbed," he added.
The core committee appealed to all political parties, organisations, institutions and citizens of the country to extend support for the cause of clemency for Rajoana.
The family members of Beant Singh have also stated that they had forgiven Rajoana and that his death sentence be converted to life imprisonment.
Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Sunday endorsed the stand taken by the family of Beant Singh that the death sentence of Rajoana be commuted to life.
He also assured all support and cooperation to the Punjab government, whether legal or by way of making an appeal to the President for clemency to Rajoana, in this regard.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the alliance partner of the Akali Dal in the Punjab government, avoided the clemency issue of Rajoana.
"The BJP stand on terrorism has not changed. This (Rajoana) matter is sub judice. We will not comment on it," Punjab BJP president Ashwini Sharma told the media here.
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