Patiala Central Jail superintendent Lakhwinder Singh Jakhar on Wednesday tendered an 'unconditional and unqualified apology' before additional district and sessions judge Shalini Singh Nagpal in a matter of contempt of court for not executing the death warrants of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh's assassination case.
On March 27, the court had issued contempt notice to Jakhar as he had refused to execute the death sentence warrants by way of written communication on March 19 and March 24. The court had commented that he had even intended to interfere with the judicial proceedings, obstruct the administration of justice and lower the authority of the court.
On March 28, the President stayed Rajoana's hanging on the mercy petition of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
Jakhar submitted that he sent back the warrants on March 19 as there were doubts about territorial jurisdiction since the crime as well as the trial had taken place in Chandigarh. Regarding his March 24 letter, he stated that in the Supreme Court judgment in the 'Harbans Singh vs State of Uttar Pradesh' case, it was directed that before the execution of the death sentence, the jail superintendent should find out whether the death penalty imposed on any co-accused of the convict scheduled to be hanged has been commuted, and if so, the officer should inform the higher authorities of the matter so that it could be brought before the court concerned.
Babbar Khalsa militant Jagtar Singh Hawara's death sentence in the Beant Singh assassination case had been commuted by the high court, Jakhar claimed in his reply. He added that appeals of co-accused Lakhwinder Singh and Hawara had also been pending in the apex court and it would be in accordance with the law to await the outcome of these pleas.
Jakhar said he had acted in good faith without any motive to defy the order of the local court. He claimed that he had been in a fix whether to follow directions of the apex court or carry out the execution of the death sentence as ordered by the local court.
Jakhar informed the court that he was an army officer before joining the Punjab Police Service (jails) and had a spotless service record of about 18 years.
In the case of interpretation of judgments, Jakhar added that he should be given the benefit of the doubt as the act of contempt had not been established beyond all doubt.
The jail superintendent said he found it necessary to bring facts before the court prior to carrying out the execution since a hanging was an irreversible action.
The matter would now come up for arguments on May 5.