The union home ministry will examine on merit the mercy petition of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who has been sentenced to death for the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh. The plea will be submitted to the President for a final decision.
Union home minister P Chidambaram said Rajoana's mercy petition filed by Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee and the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee came to the home ministry two days ago and was added to the list of mercy petitions of condemned prisoners. "We will examine it on merit and submit it to the President," he said.
Chidambaram said execution of a condemned prisoner had to be stayed once a mercy petition was filed before the President and it should be kept in abeyance till a decision was taken on the prayer.
He said guidelines in this regard were clear. Once a mercy petition is filed on behalf of a sentenced prisoner, the sentence cannot be executed unless there is a decision on the mercy petition.
"When we got the copy of the mercy petition (of Rajoana) from the President's secretariat, we immediately drew the attention of the government of Punjab to the guidelines and the instructions," Chidambaram.
"Drawing the attention of the Punjab government to the guidelines and instructions does not mean the home ministry is expressing any opinion on the merits of the mercy petition," he said. The home minister refused to comment on alleged politics being played on Rajoana's mercy petition, but said a mercy plea filed on behalf of a condemned prisoner should be treated equally as the mercy petition filed by a condemned prisoner.
Chidambaram said during his tenure as a home minister, he had received 33 mercy petitions and all but one had been submitted to the President for decision. "I think all mercy petitions are submitted, re-submitted to the President," he said. "There is only one mercy petition that is pending in the ministry out of the total of 33, including what I got after I took over."
He said 32 mercy petitions had been submitted or re-submitted to the President and the latter had taken a decision on 15 cases, which is a record for any President or for any period of three years. The home minister said the mercy petition of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru was pending before the President for a final decision.