As Punjab government sought release of the state's prisoners, the Union Home Ministry Thursday indicated that legal opinion could be taken in select cases like old people and those having completed 20 years in prison but not those convicted in serious charges.
Releasing terrorists convicted in charges like the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh is ruled out, Home Ministry officials said at New Delhi on Thursday after Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal met home minister Rajnath Singh with the demand.
"There is no question of softening of stand in terror cases. No commitment has been given to Badal on releasing any prisoner. There is no question of releasing people like those who were convicted for killing Beant Singh," an official said.
"However, selected cases may be legally examined.. Ways may be explored to examine legally the possibility of releasing those who have completed at least 20 years in prison," the official said.
The official said the government cannot release someone convicted for a crime like assassination of Beant Singh at a time when Thailand arrested a fugitive Sikh terrorist following India's persistent request.
Gurmeet Singh alias Jagtar "Tara" Singh, former member of the Babbar Khalsa International, was arrested in the eastern province of Chon Buri in Thailand on January 5. He had been convicted for life for his involvement in the assassination of Beant Singh along with 17 others in 1995 but he had escaped from a prison in Chandigarh.
Sukhbir, who was accompanied by SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar and SAD's leader in Parliament Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, presented representations to the Home Minister for the release on "humanitarian grounds" the prisoners who have completed their jail term.
In his letter to the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat, Parkash Singh Badal had sought pre-mature release of 13 terrorists, including Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmeet Singh, who are serving life sentence in connection with the assassination of Beant Singh.