Centre to release 8 Sikh prisoners in November

Former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh assassination case convict Balwant Singh Rajoana. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

Eight Sikh prisoners, lodged in different jails in the country for committing crimes during the militancy in Punjab, will be released by the government as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November.

The central government has taken a decision to grant a special dispensation to nine Sikh prisoners from various jails in the country, an official from the Ministry of Home Affairs said. 

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) added that through a special remission, the death sentence of another Sikh prisoner has been commuted to life imprisonment.

Reprieve for Rajoana

Though the names of the prisoners were not revealed by MHA, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa told The Hindu that he met Home Minister Amit Shah last week and pressed for commuting the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana.

Rajoana, a member of banned terror group Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and convicted for the assassination of former Punjab chief Minister Beant Singh, is the only Sikh prisoner on death row in a militancy related case.

The Akali Dal, a BJP ally, has been demanding the release of Rajoana and other political prisoners. Former Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal led a delegation that met Mr. Shah on June 6 and sought Rajoana's release. The execution of his death sentence was stayed on March 28, 2012 on the intervention of the Badal government.

On Saturday, SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal tweeted, "I'm grateful to PM Sh @narendramodi ji & HM @AmitShah ji for heeding my repeated requests & commuting death sentence of a Sikh prisoner into life term and releasing 8 others prematurely ahead of the #550thparkashpurab. This step will heal wounds inflicted on #Sikhs."

These individuals were convicted by various courts in the country for the offences committed by them during the militancy period in Punjab, the official added.

The decision was taken by the Central government as a token of goodwill in response to the long-pending demands of the release of Sikh prisoners articulated by various sections of the Sikh community from across the country.

A communication was sent on Saturday to State governments and Union Territories concerned for the release.

The Central government is also planning to release some more prisoners from jails across the country under the scheme for special remission to prisoners to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

So far, 1,424 prisoners have been released by States and U.T.s in two phases (October 2, 2018 and April 6, 2019). The third phase of release is due on October 2, 2019.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 11:23:07 AM |

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