“You should complete the process before January 26,” the bench said.

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court Friday asked the centre to take a decision before January 26 on Balwant S Rajoana’s plea seeking commutation of death penalty in former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said that the decision be taken before the Republic Day which is a “good date”.

“We will give two-three weeks. You should complete the process before January 26. January 26 is a good day. It will be appropriate if you take a decision before that,” the bench said.

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.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Rajoana, argued that his client’s mercy petition is pending since 2012.

“This court has held that the death sentence of a person, if delayed for over eight years, can be commuted. He has been jail for 25 years,” Mr Rohatgi said.

Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the centre, assured the court that a decision will be taken and the file will be sent to the President by then.

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“Competent authority is looking into the file. We will try to do it by then,” Nataraj said.

The top court had on December 4 questioned the Centre over delay in sending to the President the proposal for commuting the Rajoana”s death sentence. It had asked the Centre to apprise it as to when the authority would send the proposal in this regard to the President under Article 72 of the Constitution.

The article deals with power of President to grant pardon, suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.

The top court had noted that a letter was sent from the Ministry of Home Affairs to Punjab chief secretary on September 7 last year intimating that a proposal would be sent to the President to commute the death sentence of Rajoana.

His plea sought direction for expeditious disposal of the MHA proposal.

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