The fact that he was arrested by the Chandigarh UT police looks set to delay the hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana, sentenced to death for his involvement in the August 31, 1995 assassination of then CM Beant Singh in the state capital.
Lakhwinder Singh Jakhar, superintendent of the Patiala Central Jail where Rajoana is lodged, has written to additional sessions judge, Chandigarh, that it would not be possible for him to execute the death warrant of Rajoana as "the state of Punjab has no territorial jurisdiction in the matter".
On March 19, Jakhar had received a communiqué from the judge, Shalini Nagpal, that Rajoana be executed at 9am on March 31. In his 11-page communiqué back to the judge, Jakhar said, "There are legal infirmities in the procedure... the state of Punjab has no territorial jurisdiction in the matter. These aspects necessitate an in-depth examination by the court of ASJ."
He said Rajoana and Jagtar Singh Hawara were sentenced to death in the case. The death sentence of Hawara was commuted to life imprisonment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court; but Rajoana had refused to appeal against the death sentence. The appeal of another co-accused Lakjwinder Singh alias Lakha is still pending before the Supreme Court
It would be in accordance with law that execution of the sentence of death of Rajoana is deferred till the decision of the Supreme Court in the appeal filed by Lakha and Hawara, the letter said.
Jakhar also argued that warrants for execution of sentence of death were "erroneously issued" at the first instance to superintendent, Central Jail Patiala, "whereas in accordance with the rules and orders, the warrants should have been addressed to superintendent, Burail Jail [in Chandigarh UT], as the prisoner was originally committed to its custody on July 31, 2007".
He mentioned that the custody of the prisoner was handed over to superintendent, Central Jail, Patiala, purely on an administrative arrangement.
Citing rules and orders of the high court, Jakhar said when a sentence of death was confirmed by HC, the session judge issued warrants for execution of death sentence to the superintendent of jail to which the prisoner was originally committed.
"If the prisoner had been transferred to another jail, the superintendent to whom the warrants were issued earlier would return the same... and revised warrants had to be issued to the superintendent of jail in which the prisoner is confined," he said.
He went on to mention a Punjab government letter written on August 16, 1982, Jakhar said that as per administrative arrangements, condemned prisoners of the UT of Chandigarh could be sent to Central Jail, Patiala, and the expenditure for the maintenance and transportation was to be borne by the Chandigarh administration.
The letter referred only to the safe custody of the prisoners, and there was no mention whatsoever that the execution of the death sentence has to be carried out in Patiala, Jakhar wrote.
Besides, Punjab has no jurisdiction in law to execute the death sentence since the offence had taken place with in the jurisdiction of the UT. The trial was also conducted at Chandigarh and the conviction and sentence was also passed by ASJ at Chandigarh, said Jakhar in the communiqué.
He added that Rajoana's decision to not file any appeal or mercy petition so far was of no consequence. Jakhar said the application by Rajoana seeking his execution could not be considered till the matter was finally decided by the Supreme Court, adding, "It will not be possible to bring him (Rajoana) back to life in case the apex court decides that the matter does not warrant death sentence and may commute to life imprisonment or it may even acquit the co-accused on the ground that the prosecution case […] was not established beyond reasonable doubt. It is also possible that Rajoana changes his mind and files appeal or mercy petition. It is, therefore, necessary that let the law complete its final course before executing the death sentence."