We can’t hang Balwant Singh Rajoana at this stage: Jail authorities reconfirm; death warrants returned again
Published: March 25, 2012
Patiala/Chandigarh, Punjab (March 25, 2012): As per information available with “Sikh Siyasat” the Central Jail, Patiala authorities have again returned the “death or black warrants” of Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana to the Chandigarh court. The authorities have sent an eleven pages letter to the court, claiming that it would be illegal to hang Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana at this stage. Authorities have referred to various decisions by Supreme Court of India that if an appeal filed by a co-convict is pending before any appellant court the death sentence of a convict should not be executed, because the appellant court has the powers to reduce the sentence of all the conflicts, whether appealing or not.
It is notable that same argument was raise by Lawyers for Human Rights International (LFHRI) before the Punjab and Haryana High Court few days back by way of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking stay on execution of Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana, but the bench of the High Court refused to hear the plea on technical basis. The court observed that the petitioner had no locus standi to file the petition and no “public interest” could be involved in death sentence cases, therefore PIL could not be entertained in these cases.
Senior Lawyer of Supreme Court of India Advocate Harwinder Singh Phoolka is also reported to have confirmed that only convict can appeal against conviction or file a plea for stay, as the Indian courts are of the view that no public interest lies in death penalty cases.
This argument could be justified to an extent so far as the question of appeal against sentence is concerned, but extending it to plea of stay does not seem to be in the interests of justice.
Stay on execution was sought by LFHRI in public interest arguing that if Supreme court at the end of appeal proceedings decides to commute the death sentence of all convicts, including Balwant Singh Rajoana, to life imprisonment, using it’s constitutional power, and Balwant Singh is executed before that stage then the values of justice would suffer great loss. Therefore, High Court judges should have at least listened the argument raised by LFHRI.
So far as the so-called static position of Indian courts that there is “no public interest in death penalty” is concerned, it is visible that the judges have failed to appreciate the argument of LFHRI, which was both in the interests of justice as well as in public interest. The Constitution of India has imposed the duty on Indian judiciary, High Courts and Supreme court, to uphold the “spirit of justice”. There is always larger public interest in “upholding the spirit of justice”. If the interest of justice demand that some particular argument should be listened there is always a public interest in listening to that argument.