New Delhi: The Home Ministry has decided to commute the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was convicted for the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, to life imprisonment, officials said on Sunday.
Beant Singh, credited for ending terrorism in Punjab, was assassinated on August 31, 1995. "A decision has been taken to commute the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana. The process of issuing a formal notification is underway," a home ministry official said.
On August 31, 1995, the then chief minister Beant Singh was killed in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh. Sixteen others also lost their lives in the terror attack in which Punjab police employee Dilawar Singh had acted as a human bomb.
The Babbar Khalsa terrorist was the second human bomb in case the first one would have failed in killing the Congress leader.
On Saturday, a home ministry spokesperson said eight Sikh prisoners, lodged in different jails in the country for committing crimes during the militancy in Punjab, would be released by the government on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Devji as a humanitarian gesture.
Through a special remission, the death sentence of another Sikh prisoner has been commuted to life imprisonment, the spokesperson had said. It came to light on Sunday that this prisoner is Rajoana.
Rajoana and eight others are lodged in different jails in the country. The eight others were convicted by the various courts in the country for the offences committed by them during the militancy period in the Punjab.
The decision was taken by the central government as a token of goodwill in response to the long pending demands of the release of Sikh prisoners articulated by various sections of the Sikh community, the spokesperson said on Saturday.
The 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji will be in November. A special court had in July 2007 awarded the death sentence to Rajoana, along with another terrorist Jagtar Singh Hawara, in the Beant Singh assassination case.
Rajoana was scheduled to be hanged on March 31, 2012. However, the execution was stayed on March 28, 2012, by the then UPA government at the centre after Shiromoni Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, the Sikh religious body, filed a mercy petition.