Ajay Banerjee and Rajmeet Singh
The Union Government has approved release of nine people, who had been detained over the past three decades or more, under the now abrogated Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA).
The nine Sikh prisoners are lodged in different jails across the country.
The Union Government has also approved remitting death sentence of one to a life sentence. Though there is no confirmation on the identity, Sikh bodies in Delhi claim the person is Babbar Khalsa militant Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was sentenced to death for the assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995.
Those to be released are Lal Singh, Dilbagh Singh, Saran Singh—all lodged in Nabha jail—Hardeep Singh and Baj Singh in Amritsar jail; Nand Singh lodged in Patiala central jail; Subegh Singh in Ludhiana jail; Gurdeep Singh Kherav in a jail in Karnataka and Waryam Singh in Barieilly jail in Uttar Pradesh.
These names had been discussed between the Union Home Ministry and the Punjab Government. This is being seen as “act of grace” ahead of the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
In the case of Rajoana, in March 2012, the Union Government had stayed his hanging, which was slated for March 31, 2012. The decision was made after a mercy petition filed by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and been actively backed by Punjab government and other political parties in the state. Rajoana had refused file a mercy plea seeking Presidential pardon.
Then Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal also handed over a mercy petition to then President Pratibha Patil on behalf of the state government seeking clemency for Rajoana.
The President had referred the matter to the Union Home Ministry, which has stayed the execution of Balwant Singh till the matter is clear in the Supreme Court or mercy plea is considered by the President.
The TADA was in force between 1985 and 1995. It had very stringent provisions like a confession before the police being assumed a concrete acceptance of a crime. Normally, in Non-TADA cases, confession before police is not final and has to be made in a court of law.