New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed condemned prisoner and Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s plea for commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on ground of delay in deciding his mercy plea.
Delivering the verdict in a packed court room, a bench of justices G. S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya said that the petitioners failed to make out a case for commutation of sentence.
Friday’s decision will pave the way for his hanging and is likely to have an impact on 17 other convicts on death row including those held guilty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
48-year-old Bhullar’s Canada-based wife, Navneet Kaur, who was present in the court when the bench read out at 11.15am two sentences of the operative portion of their verdict, looked dejected and refused to respond to questions from reporters as she left the court premises.
The apex court had reserved its order on 19 April last year on the plea of Bhullar’s family which had filed a petition on his behalf pleading that his capital punishment be commuted to life imprisonment as there has been “inordinate” delay in deciding his mercy plea and he is not mentally sound.
It was submitted that prolonged incarceration of a death row convict awaiting his/her execution amounted to cruelty and violated the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Bhullar was awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, killing nine people and injuring 25 others, including then Youth Congress president M.S. Bitta.
The apex court had on 26 March 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 17 December 2002. Bhullar had then moved a curative petition which too had been rejected by the apex court on 12 March 2003.
Bhullar, meanwhile, had filed a mercy petition before the President on 14 January 2003. The President, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed his mercy plea on 25 May 2011.