The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to reduce the death penalty to life imprisonment for Balwant Singh Rajoana, who has been convicted for assassinating of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, PTI reported.

Rajoana was sentenced to death in July 2007. He and his associate Jagtar Singh Hawara were found guilty by a trial court of killing Beant Singh by triggering a bomb blast at the Punjab and Haryana Civil Secretariat on August 31, 1995. In October 2010, the Punjab and Haryana High Court confirmed Rajoana’s death sentence.

In his plea, Rajoana had urged the Supreme Court to commute his sentence to life imprisonment as he had already served about 26 years in jail.

On Wednesday, a bench of Justices BR Gavai, Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol rejected the petition. The judges left it to the Central government to deal with a mercy petition filed by Rajoana, Bar and Bench reported.

“We have noted the stand of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to defer the decision on the mercy petition…It actually amounts to a decision declining to grant the same for the present,” the bench said in its order, according to The Indian Express.

Rajoana’s mercy petition has been pending since 2012, even as the Supreme Court had given an ultimatum to the Centre in May last year to decide on it within two months.

Appearing for Rajoana, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi told the court that the delay in deciding the mercy petition violated his client’s fundamental rights. He also urged the court to give directions for Rajoana’s release on parole, Bar and Bench reported.