I'm against capital punishment: Amarinder

The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Opposition Congress in Punjab have demanded, through separate statements to the media, that the death sentence of Khalistan militant Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar be commuted to a life-term. They have reacted to the recent decision by the President to reject the convict's mercy petition.

While the Akali Dal has sought a “direct and immediate intervention” by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to save the life of Bhullar “on grounds of statesmanship, humanitarian and civilised concern, and overall national interest,” the Congress president in the State Amarinder Singh has said that killing the man would not solve the problem. Captain Amarinder Singh said that he, personally, was against capital punishment.

A statement released on behalf of Akali Dal patron and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and president Sukhbir Singh appealed to the Prime Minister to ensure that the highest norms of jurisprudence, legal precedents, and issues of statesmanship were applied in the matter and a sympathetic view taken.

“This would be an act of grace which will ensure that the atmosphere of acrimony, suspicion and estrangement between the Sikhs and the Centre is not vitiated any further.”

The party cited the Supreme Court's judgment court which had commuted the death sentence awarded to Hindu nationalist Dara Singh in the Staines' murder case to life-term in jail in view of “the religious and emotional factors” that led to the crime. The Akali leaders said there was no reason why the same yardstick should not be applied in this case as the country would in no way be threatened if the death sentence were to be commuted to life imprisonment.

The Akali Dal has said that while commuting the death sentence would play a major role in strengthening emotional bonds among the people, the flipside could lead to suspicion.