The Supreme Court Friday was told by the Delhi government that Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung had said he was against carrying out of the death sentence on terror convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar given his psychiatric condition.
Significantly, while notice on Bhullar and his wife Navneet Kaur’s curative petition was issued Jan 31, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s government placed before the apex court the opinion rendered by the lt. governor Jan 6 without itself giving a fresh look to the matter. What has been placed before the apex court is Jung’s opinion and the facts leading to it.
In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the Delhi government said that after considering the report of the medical board that examined Bhullar, Jung had observed that “on principles of human ethics and natural justice I cannot bring myself to recommend the rejection of the mercy petition of Navneet Kaur”.
He had directed that is opinion may forwarded to the president for final disposal of the matter.
After considering the medical board’s report, Jung in his Jan 6 comment had said: “While in the medical sense the convict is not in a vegetative state, the chances of his full recovery are minimal.”
“The question before me is whether in terms of moral principles, such a person can be condemned to death.”
Answering his own question, he said: “In many ways it would appear as if a child without a mind and in poor health is condemned to death for an incident that he committed when his mind and body were in a completely different state.”
In the affidavit filed by Principal Secretary, Home, Archna Arora said that with Jung’s approval, the comments were forwarded to the union home ministry Jan 20.
The Delhi government affidavit said that the lt. governor had July 19, 2013, sought medical assessment of Bhullar on two counts – the current status of his mental and physical health and “can (he) ever recover to be a normal person or he is in a vegetative state already”.
Contrasting the condition of Bhullar with the report of medical board that examined Bhullar in April-May 2013, the medical board Dec 17, 2013 said that he had shown “only minimal improvement in his psychotropic condition”.
Addressing the question whether Bhullar was in “vegetative state already”, the medical board had said that though he was not in a vegetative state as understood in a medical sense but was “conscious, alert looking after his personal care (though minimally)” and his response remains “irrelevant and incoherent”.
“..the chances of his full recovery remain poor, though, he may show variable and ill-sustained improvement over a period of time,” the medical board said answering whether Bhullar would ever be a normal person.
The Delhi government said this in reply to the curative petition filed by Bhullar’s wife Navneet Kaur.
The apex court Jan stayed the execution of the death sentence of Bhullar and issued notice to the central and Delhi governments on his curative petition seeking commuting of his death sentence to life imprisonment.
The court had sought the reply by February 15 as matter was directed to be listed for hearing Feb 19.
While issuing notice, the court had asked the Delhi based Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), to examine the condition of Bhullar and send report to the court in a week’s time.