Centre steers clear of Rajoana clemency issue

New Delhi: Amid a demand by Punjab government to grant clemency to Balwant Singh Rajoana in chief minister Beant Singh killing case, the Centre today appeared unwilling to intervene with Law Minister Salman Khurshid saying that neither it nor the state government "can do anything outside the system".

Asked about Akali Dal government`s demand for clemency to Rajoana, Khurshid said, "I have also heard it but this is the system, and neither the state government nor the Centre can do anything outside the system that has been put in place. We will have to work according to this."

Khurshid, however, cited the Indian philosophy and epics which, he said, were disinclined to promote death penalties. "This is a country where philosophies and epics would be disinclined to promote death penalties," he said, and pointed out that the Supreme Court has also taken this into account in its several prominent judegements and have cut down the sentences.

Maintaining that Supreme Court will take a final decision in this regard, Khurshid said, "But when an exception should be made… It is the Supreme Court ultimately and finally to judge."

Noting that the President has also granted clemency in few cases, he said, "Of course there are clemencies and mercy petitions and President of India has over the years found suitable and appropriate reasons to grant clemency in many cases."

Quickly adding that it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the issue, he said, "In any given case what will happen or not happen is something on which it would not be appropriate for me to comment…." Rajoana is scheduled to be hanged on March 31 in the Patiala Central Jail.