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Court Cites Irregularities in Sikhs’ Death Sentences

January 30, 1986

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Two Delhi high court judges said Thursday that death sentences given three Sikhs convicted in the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were not handed down ″in conformity with the law.″

The court did not strike down the sentences, however, saying it would issue a final ruling next month. By law, death sentences must be confirmed by the high court.

″All these contentions can be gone into in detail and appropriately dealt with at the time of the appeal or when the reference comes up for confirmation of the death sentence,″ judges R.N. Aggarwal and Mali Sharifuddin said.

They were replying to a petition by the lawyer for two of the Sikhs, Balbir Singh and Kehar Singh. Both were convicted last week of conspiracy in the Oct. 31, 1984, assassination of Mrs. Gandhi while she was walking in her garden.

A third Sikh, Satwant Singh, a bodyguard to Mrs. Gandhi, was convicted of murder. All three were convicted and sentenced by special Judge Mahesh Chandra of New Delhi’s session court.

Singh, which means lion in Punjabi, is the surname given all male Sikhs.

The high court said Chandra failed to mention in his execution order that the three be ″hanged by the neck until they are dead″ or that the sentences were subject to confirmation by the high court.

″This was not in conformity with the provisions of the law,″ the high court said.

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