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Virendra Sharma today condemned the news that the planned execution of Balwant Singh will go ahead, in spite of a review of a petition for clemency, submitted by campaigners and endorsed by Senior Indian Government officials, calling for his sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment.
Balwant Singh had been 17 years into his life sentence for assassinating former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, when a controversial decision was made to change his sentence to the death penalty, the first handed down in India since 2004.
Following this decision, I made my views on the matter clear in a letter to my constituents:
‘I do not support the imposition of the death penalty in any criminal case, in any country. I am concerned that this could pave the way for further such sentences. There has been no death penalty carried out in India since 2004, and I have welcomed this. It is worrying that the state could now be going backwards in terms of justice.
‘…the decision has led to feelings amongst Sikhs that they are being unfairly treated by the Indian Government. Harmony amongst and equal treatment of the many faiths in India is vital to the continued prosperity of the country.’
I then proceeded to make urgent contact with the Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Indian High Commission in London, and the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, calling for all other remedies and channels to save Balwant Singh from being executed to be fully explored especially when considering Indian news reports that indicate that the co-accused, Jagtar Singh Hawara, was awarded the death sentence which was later reduced to life imprisonment in the High Court.