A public interest litigation seeking stay on the judicial order for executing Balwant Singh Rajoana was dismissed by the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday on the grounds that the petitioner had no 'locus standi' (legal stand) to file the petition. Rajoana is on death row in the former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh's assassination case.
The division bench comprising justice Hemant Gupta and justice AN Jindal said Rajoana had already refused to appear before the high court in the 'murder reference' and also declined assistance of a counsel to defend himself on government expenses.
"He (Rajoana) has not even filed an appeal before the Supreme Court. This court has no such jurisdiction to stay an order passed by the coordinate bench (one of the courts in the high court) by way of an interim order in a public interest litigation," the bench held.
A division bench of the high court had on October 12, 2010, confirmed Rajoana's death sentence, but converted co-accused Jagtar Singh Hawara's death sentence to life imprisonment.
The petition, filed by an NGO, Lawyers for Human Rights International, had requested that till the time the petition filed by the CBI challenging the earlier high court orders in the Supreme Court attained finality, the execution of Rajoana's death sentence should be stayed, as there was a possibility of setting aside the high court's order confirming Rajoana's death sentence.
The petitioner also submitted that a co-convict in the case, Lakhwinder Singh, had also filed an appeal in the apex court.
However, citing a Supreme Court judgment in a 1992 case 'Simranjit Singh Mann vs Union of India', the division bench said the public interest litigation was dismissed in this case, which was filed by the president of a political party, challenging the conviction and sentence awarded to two convicts.
The apex court judgment reads, "In the present case, no fundamental right of the petitioner before us is violated; if at all the case sought to be made out is that the fundamental rights of the two convicts have been violated.
The two convicts could, if so minded, have raised the contention in the earlier proceedings, but a third party, a total stranger to the trial commenced against the two convicts, cannot be permitted to question the correctness of the conviction recorded against them.
If that were permitted, any and every person could challenge convictions recorded day in and day out by courts even if the persons convicted do not desire to do so and are inclined to acquiesce in the decision…"
The division bench also cited two other apex court judgments 'Karamjeet Singh vs Union of India' (1992) and 'Ashok Kumar Pandey vs State of West Bengal' (2004), challenging the death sentence of one Dhananjay Chatterjee, reiterating a similar view while dismissing the PILs.
August 31, 1995: Then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh and 17 others assassinated by a human bomb, Dilawar Singh, outside the Punjab and Haryana civil secretariat in Chandigarh
July 31, 2007: Trial court awards death sentence to Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh Rajoana. Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh and Shamsher Singh awarded life imprisonment; Nasib Singh sent to 10 years' imprisonment
October 12, 2010: High court confirms Rajoana's death sentence; converts Hawara's death sentence to life imprisonment
March 5, 2012: Additional sessions judge, Chandigarh, orders Rajoana's execution on March 31
March 22, 2012: HC dismisses PIL seeking stay on order regarding Rajoana's execution