Sikhs face execution after court plea fails

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New Delhi (AFP) - The Supreme Court threw out a petition seeking a stay in the execution of two Sikh militants who killed a former Indian army chief, clearing the way for their hangings today. Two judges, A M Ahmedi and K Ramaswamy, said third parties had no legal right to challenge convictions in criminal cases, virtually upholding the death sentences passed in 1989 on Sukhwinder Singh Sukha and Harjinder Singh Jinda.

A Sikh prisoner being tried for attempting to kill the then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in October 1986 had urged the court to stay the hangings of Sukha and Jinda, claiming he was their best friend. Several other Sikhs who had yesterday made a similar plea to the court on behalf of Sukha and Jinda were present in the judges' chamber when they announced their order.

The condemned prisoners have not challenged their death sentence and put up no defence during their trial. The two shot dead General Arun Sridhar Vaidya in Pune in August 1986 to avenge a June 1984 army assault on the Golden Temple - the holiest of Sikh shrines - to flush out Sikh militants.