Sentencing of Beant Singh’s assassins deferred to Monday


Chandigarh : A special court here Saturday deferred the sentencing of the six accused terrorists in the 1995 assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh to Monday.

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Additional District and Sessions Judge Ravi Kumar Sondhi announced in the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court that the sentencing had been deferred.

The six accused – all Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorists – were Friday convicted in the assassination case. Beant Singh was assassinated at the high-security Punjab civil secretariat complex here Aug 31, 1995.

Marking an end to one of the longest assassination trials in India, the court acquitted one of the accused, Navjot Singh, while holding six others, including mastermind Jagtar Singh Hawara, guilty.

Others found guilty with Hawara for the conspiracy are Balwant Singh, Shamsher Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Lakhwinder Singh. Another person, Naseeb Singh, was convicted under the Explosives Act.

Balwant Singh raised slogans inside the court Saturday and said he was responsible for killing Beant Singh. He was the second human bomb in the assassination conspiracy. Beant Singh and 12 others were killed by the first human bomb, Dilawar Singh.

Police personnel were very strict about allowing entry into the special court room to unauthorised persons other than lawyers from both sides and the CBI.

Even Beant Singh's daughter Gurkanwal Kaur, a former Punjab minister, was not allowed entry into the courtroom Saturday. She was denied entry by security personnel Friday too. Officials said that this was done to maintain a conducive atmosphere within the court.

However, some of the accused raised slogans inside the courtroom on both days, including pro-Khalistan slogans.

Lawyers of the accused Saturday alleged that they were manhandled by security personnel while entering the court. They did not argue the case Saturday.

Tight security measures, including deployment of paramilitary forces, were made around the jail complex where the sentencing was to be announced.

Beant Singh was chief minister from 1992-95 and was credited along with super cop K.P.S. Gill for using an iron hand to weed out terrorism in Punjab that lasted between 1982-95.

Another accused, Jagtar Singh Tara, is absconding. He was in the same Burail jail with Hawara and others. Both these men and two others, terrorist Paramjit Singh Bheora and life convict Devi Singh, had escaped through a 108-feet-long tunnel from their barrack in a sensational jailbreak in January 2004.

Hawara and Bheora were later arrested by the police. Their escape had affected the Beant Singh assassination trial. The case against Bheora is still pending.

The trial in this case started in 1996 after the Punjab and Chandigarh police arrested the main conspirators following a tip-off given by a local painter who had painted a white Ambassador car that was used by the terrorists to get inside the high-security secretariat complex here.

A human bomb, Dilawar Singh, blew himself up at the portico of the secretariat complex just as Beant Singh's cavalcade was about to move out.

Twelve other people, including a Congress legislator, were also killed in the blast.

The trial in this case lasted over 11 years and nearly 250 witnesses were examined. The case saw over half a dozen presiding judges.