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Hang Rajoana as scheduled on March 31: Court

Chandigarh(PTI): A Chandigarh court today ordered that Balwant Singh Rajoana, the death row convict in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, be hanged as scheduled on March 31, a verdict which is to be challenged by the Punjab government.

As the ruling Akali leadership pushed for clemency for the Babbar Khalsa International militant, Additional District and Sessions Judge Shalini Singh Nagpal returned the court order for execution of Rajoana in the killing of Beant Singh in 1995 after rejecting the petition of Superintendent of Patiala Central Jail seeking deferment of his hanging.

“The execution order is returned for compliance,” the judge said in a brief order pronounced in the open court.

The death warrant should be executed as directed earlier, the Court observed during the proceedings which lasted around three minutes.

Shortly after the order was pronounced, Punjab’s Additional Advocate General Anoopinder Singh Grewal said,” We will approach the high court as soon as we get the (sessions) court order.”

Rajoana himself snubbed the Akali leadership asking them not to save him from the gallows, claiming they were pushing for a pardon out of fear of losing support of Sikhs.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday said he would meet President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking their intervention to grant pardon for Rajoana.

Punjab police and paramilitary forces conducted flag marches across the state apprehending violence if the execution of Rajoana is carried out.

Various Sikh organizations have given a bandh call in Punjab tomorrow in view of the expected hanging of Rajoana who has neither challenged his conviction nor filed any mercy petition.

The sessions court had on March five directed hanging of Rajoana, lodged in the Central Jail at Patiala, on March 31.

It also issued a show cause notice returnable April 16 to the Superintendent of the Central Jail L R Jakhar who pleaded inability to carry out the execution.

The court dismissed the petition of the Jail Superintendent in which he had submitted that the death warrant could not be executed as the matter of other convict Lakhwinder Singh in the Beant Singh assassination case was still pending before the Supreme Court.

Grewal, who represented Jakhar, told mediapersons outside the court that the state would move the Punjab and Haryana Court against today’s order.

CBI counsel R K Handa and Rajan Malhotra had contended that Jakhar had no locus standi to challenge the execution warrant issued by the court.

On the plea that they would be moving the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Judge said “I have closed the order.”

In his latest letter released to Akal Takht from the Patiala Jail, Rajoana said, “I don’t need any help from blue-turbaned Akali leaders, who have not done anything so far to secure justice for Sikhs. Akali leaders have started speaking up now as they fear that if they don’t, they will lose their support.” He also called the Akali leaders as “cheaters”.

Chief Minister Badal yesterday said his government would support the SGPC petition sent yesterday to President seeking conversion of Rajoana’s death sentence to a life term.
The Centre sought to steer clear of the Rajoana clemency issue, appearing unwilling to intervene with Law Minister Salman Khurshid saying neither it nor the state government “can do anything outside the system”.

Asked about Akali Dal government’s demand for clemency to Rajoana, Khurshid said, “I have also heard it but this is the system, and neither the state government nor the Centre can do anything outside the system that has been put in place. We will have to work according to this.”

The copies of Rajoana’s letter were distributed by his foster sister Kamaldeep Kaur outside the Central Jail.

Rajoana also wrote that Akali leaders failed to secure justice from Delhi for innocent Sikhs and should not now throw their turbans before Delhi to seek clemency for him.

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