Aman Sood, Tribune News Service
Patiala, April 3. There was so much opposition and hullabaloo over the hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was awarded the death sentence for the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh. Not many are, however, aware that Punjab has as many as a dozen convicts awaiting decision on their death penalties. These convicts are languishing in the state prisons for the past several years with their clemency petitions pending either in the higher courts or before the President.
Sources in the Home Department confirmed that 12 convicts in the state jails are awaiting decision on death penalties. Some of them sentenced in 2005 do not know their own fate as their pleas are awaiting decisions at various stages. “We have 12 convicts lodged in various prisons in the state. Despite their being a threat to the society for their proven acts of crime, we (state) are spending on their board and lodging”, the sources said.
A jail official revealed that these convicts usually follow jail norms and seldom create a problem. But even these convicts are not sure of their fate. “The last hanging in India was done in 2004. A majority of these 12 convicts do not like to talk about it. But many of them are curious to know whether their pleas for turning their death sentence to life imprisonment will be accepted”, he stated. The convicts sentenced to death and languishing in the jails are Vikram Singh, Jasbir Singh, Balwant Singh Rajoana, Mohinder Singh, Suraj Ahluwalia, Resham Singh, Gurnayab Singh, Kulbir Singh, Gurmukh Singh, Saleem, Judge Singh and Gurwail Singh. While some were given the sentence in 2005 and 2006, others were awarded the penalty in 2007, 2011 and 2012. These convicts on death row are lodged in jails of Amritsar (3), Faridkot (4), Hoshiarpur (2), Ludhiana (2) and Patiala (1).
Balwant Singh Rajoana is a death row convict who doesn’t want clemency. He has refused to defend himself in any court since 1995 and has lashed out at the persons who have filed petitions on his behalf. Speaking to TNS, Punjab DGP (Jails) Shashi Kant said the convicts can be hanged once their pleas pending at various levels are cleared. “Till then they would continue to
wait for their fate”, he stated.
Supreme Court seeks details
The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to furnish details of 18 mercy pleas, including that of Parliament attack death convict Afzal Guru, pending disposal before the President. A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya also asked eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani to file written submissions on “whether the President should objectively apply mind while deciding mercy petitions”. The court passed directions while dealing with the appeal filed by death convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, challenging the undue delay in the disposal of his mercy petition by the President.