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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Dec 2014

Punjab BJP drags feet on early hanging of Bhullar, Rajoana

Manpreet Randhawa , Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, February 09, 2013
First Published: 21:28 IST(9/2/2013) | Last Updated: 09:26 IST(10/2/2013)

Contrary to the stand taken by the BJP for the early execution of Afzal Guru, the saffron party's Punjab unit invariably dragged its feet on seeking the same fate for Devinder Singh Bhullar and Balwant Singh Rajoana, who are currently on death row for their acts of terrorism in Punjab and outside.

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The BJP, the alliance partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-led government in the state, has never been vocal enough to seek early execution of Rajoana and Bhullar as it has been demanding in case of Guru.

Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma says the party wants the government take a tough stand against anyone convicted of terrorist activities or for waging war against the country.

But when asked specifically about Bhullar and Rajoana, Sharma evaded the issue saying the law would take its own course.

"It is the prerogative of the President to decide on the clemency cases," said Sharma, little knowing that neither Bhullar's nor Rajoana's clemency petitions are pending with the President.

Former BJP president Ashwani Sharma, when asked on the issue, said, "It is not a question of individuals. We don't want to take names. Whoever is there should be treated as per the law of the land," said Ashwani.

The only one who took the Akalis head on was senior BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon. "The BJP has always been against giving clemency to Bhullar or Rajoana who have been convicted for terrorist acts. We did not even allow the Shiromani Akali Dal to pass a resolution in favour of Rajoana in the state assembly. I think the time has come when the party has to take a clear stand on such issues irrespective of our alliance partner," said Tandon.

Not only the Akalis, political compulsion had put even Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh on the defensive. While he hails the hanging of Guru, he has not reacted to the fate of Rajoana and Bhullar. Though he had earlier said that Rajoana's death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment as he was against capital punishment. 

On March 31, 2012, Rajoana was to be hanged for his involvement in the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

However, just two days before Rajoana's execution, the union ministry of home affairs and justice had stayed his hanging. The SAD-led Punjab government had prevailed upon the union government that the execution would create a law and order problem in the state.

On the other hand, Bhullar was sentenced to death on August 25, 2001, for plotting terror attacks against Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in 1991 and youth Congress president Maninderjit Singh Bitta in 1993, which led to several deaths. He was associated with Khalistan Liberation Force.

In May 2011, the then President Pratibha Patil had rejected the clemency petition filed by Bhullar. However, Bhullar continues to live on as his petition was still pending in the Supreme Court.

Bhullar's lawyer had taken a plea in the apex court that there had been excessive delay in the execution of Bhullar and hence the sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. The lawyer also pleaded that since Bhullar had been undergoing treatment in the psychiatric hospital due to mental imbalance for the last one and a half years, he could not be hanged.

In Bhullar's case also, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had sought intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to save him from the gallows.

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