High Court commutes death sentence

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence awarded to Jagtar Singh Hawara, a Babbar Khalsa International militant and prime convict in the case of assassination of the former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, to life imprisonment till death.

However, the High Court upheld the death sentence awarded by the trial court to another accused, Balwant Singh, while confirming the life sentence handed to Shamsher Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Lakhwinder Singh.

Suicide bomber Dilawar Singh and his accomplices killed the 73-year-old Beant Singh in a blast at the entrance of the Civil Secretariat here on August 31, 1995. Seventeen others, including Dilawar Singh, were also killed in the blast.

A Division Bench of Justices Mehtab Singh Gill and Arvind Kumar said Hawara's case was the “boundary line for death. He is sentenced to life and will not be released till death.”

Balwant Singh did not oppose the sentence awarded by the special court here on July 2007 after an 11-year-old trial.

Shamsher Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Lakhwinder Singh were convicted of the charge of conspiracy.

They were assigned the task of providing logistics support for the plan.

On July 2007, a special Central Bureau of Investigation court sentenced BKI terrorists Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh to death. Except Balwant Singh, all the accused had filed an appeal in the High Court, where the case had been heard regularly since February. The arguments were concluded in September this year.

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 IPC, while Naseeb Singh was held guilty under the Explosives Substances Act.

The seventh accused, Navjot Singh, was acquitted by the special court. Two other accused Jagtar Singh Tara and Paramjit Singh Bheora had escaped from the Burail Jail along with Hawara, who was later re-arrested.

Three others are absconding, while three non-resident Indians were declared proclaimed offenders. In all, 15 persons had been named accused in the charge sheet.

While Hawara is serving his sentence in the Chandigarh jail, Balwant Singh and others have been lodged in the high-security jail at Patiala.

Defence counsel Baldev Singh told reporters that he would decide on the next step only after going through the detailed order of the court, which runs into 180 pages.

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