The Union Home Ministry has commuted the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict in the assassination case of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, ANI reported. Rajoana, who was sentenced to death in 2007, will now undergo life imprisonment.
The Centre has conveyed the decision to the Punjab and Chandigarh administrations.
Rajoana was to be hanged in March 2012, but the Centre had stayed the execution after the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, a Sikh religious body, submitted a mercy petition to the president. Rajoana was a member of banned terrorist group Babbar Khalsa International.
The reports about the decision to commute Rajoana’s death sentence to life imprisonment came on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
Beant Singh, known for his role in curbing terrorism in Punjab, was assassinated on August 31, 1995, in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh. Sixteen others also lost their lives in the terror attack.
Last week, Congress MP and the grandson of the slain former chief minister, Ravneet Singh Bittu, hit out at politicians who had welcomed the move to commute Rajoana’s death sentence. He had said that the Narendra Modi-led government and its alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal have “stooped to the lowest level for petty political gains”. He had said that their family would move the Supreme Court against the decision.
The home ministry had also said last week that eight Sikh prisoners, lodged in different jails in the country for committing crimes during the militancy period in Punjab, would be released by the government as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. Rajoana was the only Sikh prisoner on death row in a militancy-related case.