The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has filed a mercy petition before the President of India for Babbar Khalsa militant Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is on death row for his involvement in the August 1995 assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.
The move came on Sunday night after the 16-member Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) core committee - including chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his deputy Sukhbir Badal and SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar - vowed to "go to any extent" to secure clemency for Rajoana.
The committee asked the state government, which the SAD runs in alliance with junior partner BJP, to "explore all possible legal and other options" to ensure that Rajoana escapes the gallows.
CM Badal said at the meeting that he would make a speech on the issue in the Vidhan Sabha on Monday, a source told HT.
The two-hour meeting took place after the Akal Takht issued an edict on Friday asking CM Badal, his deputy and SAD president Sukhbir, and the SGPC chief to meet the President and ensure clemency for Rajoana.
Appreciating the state government for its stand against executing the death warrants for Rajoana - who was convicted in Chandigarh but is currently lodged in Patiala Central Jail - the committee asked the SGPC to file a clemency appeal.
And the SGPC was quick to act.
As soon as the two-hour meeting chaired by Sukhbir ended around 8pm, the SGPC sent a communiqué to the President through governor Shivraj Patil, arguing that hanging Rajoana would "hurt the Sikh psyche". It referred to statements by the family of Beant Singh, who have expressed no objection to Rajoana being pardoned.
Earlier, the committee appealed to all political parties and social organisations to back clemency for Rajoana, and also endorsed the argument of Patiala jail superintendent Lakhwinder Singh Jakhar, who said on Saturday that "Punjab has no territorial jurisdiction in the matter".
Jakhar has returned the death warrants issued by a Chandigarh additional sessions judge that said Rajoana be hanged at Patiala Central Jail at 9am on March 31.
Ironically, Rajoana himself has refused to seek mercy and demanded that he be hanged for the "cause of Khalistan".