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Question mark over hanging of BKI terrorist Rajoana (Roundup)

Punjab,Immigration/Law/Rights,Politics,Terrorism, Mon, 26 Mar 2012 IANS

Chandigarh, March 26 (IANS) The March 31 hanging of Sikh terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana in the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh appeared unsure Monday after the Patiala jail superintendent approached a court seeking deferment of the hanging and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said there was possibility of the BKI terrorist getting relief.


Badal told the state assembly Monday that the hanging of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorist Rajoana could not be carried out in the present circumstances as there is a possibility of his getting relief in the assassination case.


In a statement, Badal said it was "necessary to await the outcome of the matter in the Supreme Court before executing the death warrant of Rajoana".


The chief minister's statement came as the superintendent of Patiala jail, where the Sikh terrorist is lodged and is scheduled to be hanged March 31, Monday approached the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court here seeking deferment of the warrant of death issued for Rajoana.


Patiala jail superintendent L.S. Jakhar had earlier returned the warrant of death issued by the court saying that the legal circumstances of the Beant Singh assassination case were such that Rajoana could not be hanged till the Supreme Court decided all related issues.


The matter of two other terrorists, Jagtar Singh Hawara and Lakhwinder Singh, convicted in the same case, is pending before the Supreme Court. The CBI has approached the Supreme Court in Hawara's case as his death sentence, awarded by the CBI special court in 2007, was commuted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2010 to life imprisonment. The appeal of Lakhwinder Singh against his conviction is also pending.


However, the high court had upheld Rajoana's death sentence in the case as he had refused to defend himself.


Citing the petition moved by the Patiala jail superintendent before the court, Badal said: "In view of the old cases and rules it is amply clear that Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana could also get the same relief to be given to other accused in this case, whether he (Rajoana) has not filled any appeal."


"In view of these circumstances, it is clear that Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana cannot be hanged," Badal stated.


He pointed out that if Rajoana is hanged now and the court gives relief later, no one would be able to give life back to him then.


Badal said that he would soon meet the president and prime minister to seek clemency for Rajoana. He said the Punjab government did not want the hard earned peace and communal harmony in the state to be disturbed by the Rajoana hanging case.


Earlier, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) filed a clemency petition with President Pratibha Patil for Rajoana.


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. He had refused to defend himself in any court saying that he "be hanged to death for the cause of Khalistan" (a separate Sikh homeland).


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.


Beant Singh, a former Punjab 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 family members of Beant Singh have also stated that they had forgiven Rajoana and that his death sentence be converted to life imprisonment.


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), alliance partner of the Akali Dal in the Punjab government, has avoided any comment on the clemency issue of Rajoana.


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