Supreme Court of India stays Bhullar’s execution

NEW DELHI (TIP): The Supreme Court on Friday, January 31, stayed the execution of Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar and agreed to review its judgment by which it had rejected the 1993 Delhi bomb blast convict’s plea to commute his death sentence to life term.

A four-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam issued notice to the Centre and Delhi government on a curative petition filed by Bhullar’s wife Navneet Kaur. The bench also comprising justices R.M. Lodha, H.L. Dattu and S.J. Mukhopadhaya directed the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), where Bhullar is being treated, to file a medical report within a week on the condition of the death convict who is alleged to be suffering from a mental illness.

“We would examine whether our judgment (pertaining to commutation of death sentence to life term on the ground of delay in deciding the mercy plea) is applicable or not in this case,” the bench said, adding “we also want to know his present condition”. “We direct Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences to send to us a report on condition of Devinderpal Singh Bhullar within a week,” the bench said.

The plea of Bhullar’s wife for commutation of death sentence assumes significance in view of the apex court’s January 21 verdict holding that inordinate and inexplicable delay by government in deciding mercy plea of death row convicts can be a ground for commuting their sentence. Bhullar’s wife has filed the petition for relook against the apex court verdict which rejected her plea to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment on grounds of delay on the part of the government in deciding his mercy plea.

Bhullar was convicted and awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, which killed nine persons and injured 25 others, including then Youth Congress president M.S. Bitta. The apex court had on March 26, 2002 dismissed Bhullar’s appeal against the death sentence awarded by a trial court in August 2001 and endorsed by the Delhi High Court in 2002. He had filed a review petition which was also dismissed on December 17, 2002.

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Bhullar had then moved a curative petition which too had been rejected by the apex court on March 12, 2003. Bhullar,meanwhile, had filed a mercy petition before the President on January 14, 2003. The President, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed his mercy plea on May 14, 2011. Citing the delay, he had again moved the apex court for commutation of the death sentence but his plea was rejected.

The apex court on January 21 had held inordinate delay by government in deciding mercy plea of death row convicts can be a ground for commuting their sentence and had granted life to 15 condemned prisoners including four aides of forest brigand Veerappan. In a landmark judgment, the court had held that prolonging execution of death sentence has a “dehumanizing effect” on condemned prisoners who have to face the “agony” of waiting for years under the shadow of death during the pendency of their mercy plea.

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