Govt favours SC plea on death sentence commutation of Bhullar

The Centre on Thursday favoured before the Supreme Court allowing a plea for commutation of death sentence of banned Khalistan Liberation Front member Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, citing delay in deciding his mercy petition.

The government recalled the apex court’s landmark verdict which held that delay in disposing mercy petition was ground for converting capital punishment into life term.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati told a four-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam that the curative petition filed by Navneet Kaur, wife of Bhullar, has to be allowed as there was eight years delay in deciding his clemency plea.

He said that a two-judge bench decision rejecting Bhullar’s plea for commutation of death sentence due to the grave terror charges against him has already been declared “per incuriam” due to the January 21 verdict of the Apex Court.

The bench, also comprising Justices R M Lodha, H L Dattu and S J Mukhopadhaya, appreciated the stand taken by the Centre and said that it would pass a formal order in the matter next week.

The court also perused the latest medical report of February 8, sent by the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) here, where Bhullar is under treatment.

It also took into consideration the “notings” made by Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor in the fresh mercy petition filed by Kaur in April, a day after rejection of her plea for commutation of Bhullar’s death sentence by the court. The apex court had on January 31 ordered stay on Bhullar’s execution.

Bhullar saw a glimmer of hope in the apex court verdict of January 21 wherein 15 death row convicts were spared due to inordinate delay in disposal of their mercy petitions.

Bhullar, a former teacher at Guru Nanak Engineering College, Ludhiana, was held guilty and sent to gallows by a Tada court for carrying out an explosion on the cavalcade of the then Youth Congress president Maninderjit Singh Bitta here on September 10, 1993.

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