One of the longest assassination trials in India came to an end on Friday with a trial court here convicting six people for the 1995 murder of former Punjab
chief minister Beant Singh.
Jagtar Singh Hawara, Balwant Singh, Shamsher Singh, Lakhwinder Singh and Gurmeet Singh were convicted under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code while Naseeb Singh was held guilty under the Explosives Substances Act.
However, the special court of Additional District and Sessions Judge R.K. Sondhi, which had been hearing the case since 1996 in the high-security Burail Jail complex, acquitted one of the accused, Navjot Singh. Counsel for the CBI S.K. Saxena said the quantum of sentence would be pronounced on Saturday. Defence counsel Navkiran Singh said they would challenge the verdict in a higher court.
Beant Singh and 16 others were killed when human bomb Dilawar Singh, a former Punjab Police constable, blew himself up near the Punjab Secretariat on August 31, 1995.
The conviction orders were pronounced at the specially designated court amid tight security. Only the prosecution and defence lawyers along with blood relations of the accused were allowed in.
The trial was marred by the sensational escape from jail of three of the accused. Conspiracy mastermind and Babbar Khalsa International operations chief Hawara, Jagtar Singh Tara and Paramjit Singh Bheora along with Dev Singh, a life convict, had escaped on the night of January 21, 2004 by digging a 110-foot-long tunnel under the barrack. The Delhi Police had later caught up with Hawara and Bheora but Tara is still absconding.