Did Amit Shah lie on Rajoana’s death sentence commutation?

Amit Shah said in Lok Sabha that the Government has not condoned the death sentence, remitting to life imprisonment of Balwant Singh Rajoana, the killer of former Punjab CM Beant Singh

Did Amit Shah lie on Rajoana’s death sentence commutation?

Faraz Ahmad

Is there any penalty for doublespeak and lying on the floor of the House in Parliament? Apparently not, particularly when those affected by such blatant untruth are reluctant to pin down the person who has misled Parliament?

On Tuesday, December 3, Union Home Minister, simultaneously donning the cap of the president of the ruling BJP, Amit Shah said on the floor of the Lok Sabha that the Government has not condoned the death sentence, remitting to life imprisonment of Balwant Singh Rajoana, the killer of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

Rajoana along with his associates bombed the chief minister’s car seconds before he was about to board it outside Punjab secretariat in Chandigarh and killed Beant Singh and 16 others including his driver, security personnel and bystanders on the spot and was later awarded death sentence on being caught by the lower court, confirmed subsequently by the High Court and the Supreme Court as a heinous case of terrorism, against which Amit Shah and Narendra Modi purportedly stand resolute.

But on September 27 this year Amit Shah’s Home ministry sent out a missive to the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, the NCT of Delhi, and the adviser to the Chandigarh Administration, according to media reports which quoted the communication verbatim.

The letter marked “Secret” signed by Deputy Secretary (PR&ATC) Arun Sobti stated “I am directed to say that on the occasion of 550th Birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji, the Government of India has decided that 8 Sikh prisoners may be granted special remissions and the death sentence of one Sikh prisoner may be commuted to life imprisonment. Not to leave any doubt or confusion, the attachment to that letter specified Balwant Singh Rajoana’s name along with his age and address in jail record and mentioned him as the one whose death sentence is to be commuted to life imprisonment.

Curiously of the eight whose imprisonment was ordered to be remitted and they were to be released as per this Home ministry directive, one was acquitted by the Supreme Court and two others are already out of Patiala jail.

But when Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu interrupted the Home Minister on Tuesday while he was speaking in the Lok Sabha to ask about the commutation of death sentence of Rajoana, Shah flatly denied saying, “Please don’t go by media reports, koi maafi ki nahin gayee (no one has been pardoned).” Ravneet Singh is the grandson of martyred Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

Reacting sharply to the Home Minister’s categorical statement in the Lok Sabha Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president and Lok Sabha member from Ferozepur, Sukhbir Singh Badal described in Chandigarh Shah’s disclosure as “Very unfortunate” causing great pain and anguish to the entire Sikh community, pointing out that Rajoana has been in jail without any remission and parole for last 30 years and deserved some leniency on humanitarian grounds.

The SAD is one of the oldest ally of the BJP and the commutation decision too was taken at the instance of Akali Dal which has been lobbying for commuting Rajoana’s death sentence for over a decade.

“We all feel aggrieved today,” Badal said in a statement adding, “We thought we had moved ahead when news appeared last month quoting the home ministry officials as telling the death sentence of Rajoana has been commuted. However, today’s assertion has shocked everyone. There is a feeling of hurt that justice has not been done to the Sikh community and the spirit of clemency which was espoused on the occasion of the 550th Parkash Purb has not been carried through.”

The issue is either the minister misled the Lok Sabha, which is apparent from the official and authorised communication of the Home ministry more than two months back, in which case he is liable for a Privilege motion against him or his ministry was fooling ally Akali Dal to earn brownie points with the Sikh community which was elated over Pakistan opening borders and Kartarpur saheb giurudwara for the Sikhs from all over the world including India.

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