Beant grandson doubts Shah's 'no pardon' statement, says misleading nation on Rajoana

Dharmendra Joshi

Shimla, Dec 4 (PTI) The grandson of assassinated Punjab chief minister Beant Singh on Wednesday accused the Centre of misleading the nation, a day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament that convict Balwant Singh Rajoana has not been granted any pardon.

Beant Singh’s grandson Gurkirat Kotli shared the copy of a purported Home Ministry letter sent to Punjab government in September, informing that Rajoana’s death sentence was being commuted to life imprisonment.

Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, was sentenced to death for his involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab civil secretariat in Chandigarh that killed the then chief minister and 16 others in 1995.

In September, officials indicated that the Centre has decided to commute the death sentence as a humanitarian gesture ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

“We are not satisfied with Amit Shah's statement in the Lok Sabha on the issue. The Centre is misguiding the nation and it is trying to give a twist to the issue,” Kotli told PTI.

Kotli's cousin and Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Asking the member not to go by media reports, the home minister had replied, 'No pardon has been given.' But Kotli claimed the issue has not been clarified. He shared the copy of a four-page letter purportedly signed by MHA Deputy Secretary (PR and ATC) Arun Sobti.

“I am directed to say that on the occasion of commemoration of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji, the Government of India has decided that eight Sikh prisoners may be granted special remission and death sentence of one Sikh prisoner may be commuted to life imprisonment,” the letter said.

It listed the names of the convicts.

“The proposal for commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment of one prisoner is to be processed under Article 72 of the Constitution of India,” it added. Article 72 gives the President the power to commute a death sentence.

Kotli questioned Amit Shah’s denial.

“The Centre should make the picture clear on the issue and if it had not pardoned Rajoana, it should withdraw the notification issued on September 27 for commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment,” he said.

Kotli said the family was not against commuting Rajoana's death sentence. 'But at least he should express his faith in law of the land and in the Constitution, and should file a mercy petition himself for that.” The Centre should also take the views of the families others killed in the same blast, he said, suggesting that unlike his own family they are not in a position to raise the issue in forums like the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha.

In July 2007, a special court awarded the death sentence to Rajoana and he was scheduled to be hanged on March 31, 2012.

However, the execution was stayed just days earlier after the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) filed a mercy petition.

The President forwarded the plea to the home ministry to take a call on it. Since then the petition had been pending with the ministry. PTI DJI PTI ASH ASH