President is seized of Balwant S Rajoana's plea for commutation of death penalty: Centre to SC

The bench noted the submission that the pending review petition was yet to come up before the high court and granted liberty to petitioners to mention the matter thereafter. [File]

The Centre Friday told the Supreme Court that President Ram Nath Kovind is seized of the matter pertaining to Balwant S Rajoana’s plea seeking commutation of the death penalty awarded to him in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh’s assassination case, and a decision will be taken on it.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, that Rajoana had assassinated a former chief minister on the issue of ‘Khalistan’ —  a demand for separate statehood for Sikhs.

“The process has started and the President will take a decision. This is a case where the convict is accused of assassinating a former CM on the issue of ‘Khalistan’,” Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

He said in the present circumstances, six weeks be granted to the Centre in the matter.

“This is fine that his Excellency, the President, will take a decision on the issue. Can you give the time frame within which the decision would be taken,” the bench, also comprising justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, asked the law officer.

Mehta said he cannot apprise the court about the time to be taken by the President in deciding the issue.

“Of course, you cannot tell us about the President, but you certainly tell us about the government,” the bench said.

The bench allowed Mehta’s request and adjourned the matter by six weeks.

The apex court had on January 25 granted the “last chance” to the Centre to decide within two weeks on Rajoana’s plea seeking commutation of death penalty in the case.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Rajoana, had told the apex court that “this man is in jail for over 25 years and his mercy plea has been pending for the last nine years”. Rajoana, a former Punjab Police constable, was convicted for his involvement in an explosion outside the Punjab civil secretariat that killed Beant Singh and 16 others in 1995.