New Delhi, Jan 8 The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to decide before January 26 on the mercy pleas filed on behalf of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was awarded the death penalty for the 1995 assassination of then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) KM Nataraj, representing the Centre, that the government should decide on Rajoana's pleas for commutation of the death penalty before the Republic Day. "It is a good date," the CJI quipped.
On December 4, the Supreme Court had said that once the Centre decides to recommend a presidential pardon to a convict on death row, then the pendency of the appeals of the co-accused in the apex court cannot become a ground for the delay in the process.
The top court had asked the Centre when it would send a proposal to the President, under Article 72 of the Constitution, for the commutation of the death sentence of Rajoana.
The Article deals with the President's power to grant pardon, suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
The bench noted that on September 7 last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs sent a letter to the Punjab Chief Secretary to intimate that a proposal would be sent to the President to commute Rajoana's death sentence.
The Chief Justice cited this letter which said that the release of some prisoners, including Rajoana, was proposed on the 550th birth anniversary of first Sikh master, Guru Nanak Dev.
The ASG submitted that the proposal was not sent to the President since the appeal of other co-accused in the case was pending.
In response, the apex court said: "A pending appeal of other co-accused has no relevance to the decision to commute the death sentence of some convicts...."
( With inputs from IANS )
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