While hearing an appeal concerning inordinate delay of ten years in considering the Mercy Petition of Balwant Singh convicted in bomb blast and murder of former Punjab Chief Minister, the Supreme Court directed that the competent authority, in due course of time, would again as and when it is deemed necessary, may deal with the Mercy Petition, and take a further decision.

Having found that the Ministry of Home Affairs has concluded that the consideration of Mercy Petition may be deferred as it could have an impact of compromising the security of the nation or creating law and order situation, a Three Judge Bench of Justice B.R Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Sanjay Karol observed that "it would not be within the domain of this Court to delve upon the decision of the competent authority to defer taking of any decision at present".

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi appeared for the Appellant and ASG K.M. Natraj appeared for the Respondent.

The facts of the case were that, in the year 1995, in a bomb blast, the then Chief Minister of Punjab Shri Beant Singh, along with 16 others, lost their lives and a dozen others were injured. The present Petitioner along with 8 others, who had hatched a conspiracy and had executed the said bomb blast, were put to trial. Accordingly, the Trial Court in the year 2007 convicted the Petitioner along with other co-accused for offences under Sections 120-B, 302, 307 of the IPC and under Section 3(b), 4(b) and 5(b) r/w 6 of Explosives Substances Act, 1908 and awarded death sentence. The High Court however, while confirming the conviction of the co-accused Jagtar Singh, commuted the death sentence into life imprisonment. Later, a Mercy Petition was filed by Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee on behalf of the Petitioner, but no decision was taken for more than 10 years. Hence, present appeal.

After considering the submissions, the Apex Court opined that the argument regarding pendency of the Mercy Petition and there being a delay of more than 10 years cannot be sustained.

The Apex Court pointed out that the Petitioner himself never submitted any Mercy Petition, and rather the alleged Mercy Petition of year 2012 was filed by SGPC.

“Further, after the communication of the Ministry of Home Affairs dated 27.09.2019, the proposal for considering the commutation of the death sentence of the petitioner was started and a decision was taken to keep the same pending till disposal of the pending appeals before this Court, filed by the co-accused as well as by CBI, as according to the competent authority, it would have a bearing and it could be relevant for taking final decision on the said proposal of commutation”, added the Court.

The three Judge Bench also noted that after the directions issued by this Court in the year 2020 and 2022, the matter was again considered by the competent authority and it was decided to defer the question of commutation in view of the reasons given in the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Thus, the Bench clarified that it cannot be alleged that there has been an inordinate delay in disposal of the Mercy Petition.

Cause title: Balwant Singh v. Union of India and Ors.

Click here to read / download Judgment