Chandigarh: In a major development, the Chandigarh trial court on Tuesday 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.
According to reports, the additional district and sessions judge Shalini Nagpal also issued a contempt of court notice to the Patiala central jail Superintendent Lakhwinder Singh Jakhar, who had appeared before her to return the death warrant against Rajoana on Monday.
Announcing the judgement, the sessions court directed the Patiala Jail authorities "for urgent compliance" in the Beant Singh assassination case of 1995.
Appearing on behalf of Patiala jail superintendent, Additional Advocate General Anupinder Singh Grewal had contended that as per the Supreme Court judgment a death warrant in a case cannot be executed during the pendency of appeals filed by other co-accused.
The court order is a big setback to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) which had sought clemency for Rajoana hailing him as living Sikh martyr.
Amid increased pressure from the Punjab government, seeking clemency to Rajoana, the Centre today appeared unwilling to intervene with Law Minister Salman Khurshid saying that neither it nor the state government "can do anything outside the system".
Asked about Akali Dal government`s demand for clemency to Rajoana, Khurshid said, "I have also heard it but this is the system, and neither the state government nor the Centre can do anything outside the system that has been put in place. We will have to work according to this."
Hours ahead of the court ruling, Rajoana today snubbed the ruling Akali leadership asking them not to save him from the gallows, claiming they were pushing for a pardon out of fear of losing support of Sikhs.
Punjab police and paramilitary forces conducted flag marches across the state apprehending violence if the execution of Rajoana is carried out.
Various Sikh organizations have given a bandh call in Punjab tomorrow in view of the expected hanging of Rajoana who has neither challenged his conviction nor filed any mercy
petition. As per a court order, he is scheduled to be hanged on March 31 in the Patiala Central Jail.
In his latest letter released to Sikhs from the Patiala Jail, Rajoana said, "I don`t need any help from blue-turbaned Akali leaders, who have not done anything so far to secure
justice for Sikhs. Akali leaders have started speaking up now as they fear that if they don`t, they will lose their support." He also called the Akali leaders as "cheaters".
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday said his government would support the SGPC petition sent yesterday to President seeking conversion of Rajoana`s death sentence to a life term.
The SAD patron also said he would meet the President and the Prime Minister to seek their intervention in
saving Rajoana from the gallows.
The copies of Rajoana`s letter were distributed by his foster sister Kamaldeep Kaur outside the Central Jail.
Rajoana also wrote that Akali leaders failed to secure justice from Delhi for innocent Sikhs and should not now throw their turbans before Delhi to seek clemency for him.