Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prevent the hanging of death-row convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, while warning that the execution would affect peace and harmony in the state.
Badal, accompanied by his son and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, submitted a memorandum to the PM on behalf of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which stated that in the interest of peace and communal harmony in Punjab, Bhullar's death sentence be commuted to life term.
"We asked the Prime Minister to find out a way so that he (Bhullar) can be granted clemency," Badal told reporters after the meeting.
"I have the experience of how much the country has lost due to incorrect decisions. In the interest of the state and the country, we are asking to stop it," he said, referring to Bhullar's imminent execution.
The memorandum said: "The process must be started for finding ways to ensure that the ends of justice do not clash with the long-term interests of the nation... In the interest of peace and communal harmony in Punjab, in particular, the death penalty in this case may be commuted to life imprisonment."
The memorandum said that in matters relating to death penalty, "there is a legal and constitutional requirement for putting the case beyond all reasonable doubt. This was clearly not done in the case of Bhullar."
The Badals separately met union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde. Later, Sukhbir said the minister assured them to look into the matter.
The Punjab government also rejected the contention that commuting Bhullar's death sentence will send a wrong message.
"See, you do not understand… If it affects peace and harmony, it will become an emotive issue. We are warning the (union) government that people are emotional. Moreover, he (Bhullar) is in poor health... what will they gain by hanging him," the chief minister said.
BJP sticks to its guns
Amritsar/Chandigarh: Underlining the rift between alliance partners Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over Devinderpal Singh Bhullar's death penalty, BJP national vice-president Laxmi Kanta Chawla on Monday questioned chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's move to seek clemency for the militant, saying that "his action is not in the national interest as a terrorist who has spilled innocent blood deserves no mercy."
"I do not know what the CM's compulsions are, but he seems to be making this appeal for mercy just to please a particular section of society, without looking at the larger national interest," the former minister told mediapersons in Amritsar.
She said it was rather unfortunate that Badal had taken this stand after the Supreme Court had shut all doors by rejecting Bhullar's mercy plea for commutation of his death sentence.
"Today, we have a CM appealing for mercy for a terrorist of his state; tomorrow we will have another one making a similar appeal for a terrorist of Jammu and Kashmir; then another leader from a southern state will make a similar appeal. This will set an unhealthy precedent and Badal should realise this," Chawla added.
Meanwhile, state BJP chief Kamal Sharma said, "We are two different parties and the BJP's central leadership has already made its stand clear on the issue."
He added that his party had a consistent viewpoint that "we must honour the judgment of the apex court and allow the law to take its own course." Earlier, senior BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon had said that terrorists should not be pardoned.