SAD decries Centre’s U-turn on commuting of Gajoana’s death sentence

  • | Wednesday | 3rd May, 2023

With the Supreme Court refusing to commute the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Wednesday accused the Union government of backtracking on the release of Rajoana. Rajoana was convicted in the case of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh assassination. In a statement, SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia said the Central government has hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community as it first promised to commute the death sentence of Rajoana to life in 2019 in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, and then went back on its word by refusing to decide on the mercy petition filed on Rajoana’s behalf by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in March, 2012. The SAD alleged a tactical understanding between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was coming in the way of release of the Bandi Singhs (Sikh prisoners). Asking the BJP to make its stand clear on the issue, Majithia said former Punjab BJP incharge Gajendra Shekhawat had signed a form seeking the release of Rajoana while paying his obeisance at Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, one of the five takhts or Seat of Temporal Authority of Sikhism. “The same party is, however, coming in the way of the detenue’s release in the Supreme Court which is also an insult to the holy Takth,” the SAD leader said. Majithia said the Sikh community was already feeling that it was being discriminated against because it was a minority following the release of Bilkis Bano’s rapist, but the manner in which the Centre tried to link the release of Rajoana with national security in a previous affidavit had hurt it even further.  “Sikhs have made the most sacrifices for the country’s freedom and even now are guarding the nation’s border. The community feels the Rajoana’s release will help the process of reconciliation and the centre should respect this sentiment instead of opposing it,” he added. Majithia said the Sikh community felt that the Centre would uphold the solemn commitment made in 2019 when it announced Rajoana’s death sentence would be commuted to life and that eight other Sikh detenues, who had completed nearly double of their life sentences, would also be released. “Sadly this commitment was not implemented and the human rights of all Bandi Singhs, including  Rajaona, are being violated,” he added. Majithia said the AAP government in Delhi had also adopted the same stance as the BJP and was withholding the release of Prof Devenderpal Singh Bhullar, a 1993 Delhi bomb blast case convict, for more than one year now. “Like in the case of the Centre, the AAP government in Delhi is sitting over the release orders of Prof Bhullar with the matter not being decided despite repeated meetings of the Sentence Review Board,” he added.

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