NEW DELHI (TIP): Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on January 8 sought Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s intervention to facilitate the release of more than a dozen Sikh terror convicts serving life terms. However, home ministry sources said the Centre was unlikely to entertain Punjab government’s plea seeking amnesty for the terrorists, five of whom were convicted for the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.
Sukhbir’s call for freeing the life-term convicts lodged in various prisons across the country comes a month after his father and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal wrote to five chief ministers and two Union Territory administrations seeking their premature release on “humanitarian grounds”. Sukhbir pressed for premature release of the Sikh terror convicts, underlining how some of them had served over 25 years in prison and were suffering from geriatric problems such as blindness, having crossed 90 years of age.
Singh resisted giving any assurance in the matter, though Badal claimed after the meeting that he was told that the Centre would “legally examine” the Punjab government’s appeal.
A home ministry official said that though legal opinion could be taken in select cases where prisoners were either too old or had completed 20 years in prison, this was not done for those convicted of serious offences.
Among the 13 Sikh terror convicts whose release is being sought by the Punjab government are Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmeet Singh, lodged in Burail jail, Chandigarh;
Jagtar Singh Hawara, Paramjit Singh Bheora, Davinder Singh Pal Bhullar and Daya Singh Lahoria in Tihar jail; Waryam Singh in Bareilly jail; Gurmeet Singh Fauji serving life sentence in a Rajasthan jail; Gurdeep Singh Khaira in Gulbarga jail, Karnataka; Lal Singh Akalgarh lodged in Naba jail and Subeg Singh and Nand Singh serving in Chandigarh jail.
Sukhbir Badal was on Thursday accompanied by SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar and SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
The Punjab government’s pitch for the release of Sikh life-term terror convicts comes against the backdrop of former terrorist Gurbax Singh Khalsa’s hunger strike at Ambala since November 4. The SGPC is backing his demand for
“permanent release” of seven Sikh terror convicts handed life sentence.