Notwithstanding the controversy, Punjab government on Thursday formally approached the Centre to seek release of terrorists of the state “who have served their jail terms” and brushed aside the criticism, saying a “wrong impression” has been created.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh merely said that the matter will be “legally examined” when Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal met him.
Badal, who was accompanied by SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar and SAD’s leader in Parliament Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, presented representations for the release on “humanitarian grounds” the prisoners who have completed their jail term.
Brushing aside criticism for making the demand and being labelled as “anti-national”, he said a “wrong impression” is being created against the state government that it was seeking release of prisoners without having completed their terms.
“We met the Home Minister Rajnath Singh with a request that people who have served their jail terms and completed them and as per law they are entitled for a consideration for release, their case should be sympathetically heard. We are not seeking for people who have not served their terms,” he told.
The Akali leader insisted that this was not the first time a state is making a demand for release of its prisoners having completed their terms.
A row has been triggered after Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal wrote to his counterparts in five states some time back, demanding release of 13 terrorists, including killers of former Chief Minister Beant Singh.
“A wrong impression has been created in the media that the (Punjab) government is asking for release of people who have not served their terms or want them to be released immediately,” Badal said.
Contending that he was “surprised how we are being branded as anti-national”, the Akali Dal President said his party has always been in the forefront to fight for Punjab and the nation.
Sources said Badal, while pressing the case, referred to release of prisoners associated with outlawed organisations in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir on humanitarian grounds, some of whom have contested elections and won. He did not give any numbers of such prisoners.
A fortnight ago, Badal had sought “premature release” of 13 life convicts, five of them are jailed in the assassination case of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh and one in bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, in which nine persons were killed and 25 others, including the then Youth Congress President M S Bitta, were injured.
Badal, in his letter to Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat, has sought premature release of the convicted terrorists, including those responsible for assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.
The terrorists, whose release has been sought by Badal, include Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmeet Singh who are serving life sentence in connection with the assassination of Beant Singh.
The move by Badal came after a Punjab resident, Gurbax Singh Khalsa, went on a hunger strike in Ambala in November 2014 demanding the release of six prisoners, including those convicted in Beant Singh assassination case.
BJP disagrees on release of convicts
The BJP on Thursday made it clear that it is not in favour of “premature release” of 13 convicts, including five jailed in assassination case of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, as sought by Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal.
“BJP is not in agreement with this,” party President Amit Shah told at a press conference in response to a query on Badal seeking premature release of the 13 life convicts.