New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday stayed the execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana, assassin of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.
The hanging of Rajoana, which was supposed to be carried out on March 31, has been stayed following a petition filed by Sikh religious body Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to President seeking conversion of the death sentence to a life term.
The decision to keep the hanging in abeyance was taken since the petition was filed in line with the guidelines followed in such cases, sources informed.
The centre’s move came minutes after Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal called on President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan here to seek her intervention in saving Balwant Singh Rajoana from the gallows.
Badal, alongwith his son and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and MPs from SAD handed over a mercy petition to President on behalf of the Punjab government.
The President`s office later sent his petition to the Union Home Ministry, which will also be decided in due course of time, sources informed.
The Chandigarh trial court on Tuesday had returned the death warrant of Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for assassinating former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, to Patiala Jail and ordered his execution on March 31.
The scheduled hanging of Rajoana had got the politics of Punjab in a turmoil with the ruling Akali Dal campaigning against his execution while its coalition partner BJP disfavouring such a course.
The state Congress leaders, however, at a personal level had been favouring clemency.
A near total bandh today disrupted normal life in Punjab as shops and commercial establishments remained closed to protest the proposed execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana.
The day-long shut down was called by radical Sikh outfits and other social organisations to protest the scheduled execution of Rajoana.
A blanket of saffron colour enveloped Punjab with women carrying same colour dupattas, Sikhs with saffron head gear and saffron flags donning residential and commercial establishments.
Shops, commercial establishments, offices and various educational institutions were closed. A number of examinations scheduled for the day by state educational institutions have also been deferred.
Rajoana, a police constable and a close friend of another assassin Dilawar Singh Babbar, was the second human bomb to be used in case the first one failed to kill Beant Singh on August 31, 1995.