The Supreme Court Friday said it would hear on January 28 the curative petition by 1993 Delhi blast terror convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar for commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment.
A bench of Chief Justice P.Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice M.Y. Eqbal slated the matter for hearing Jan 28 as senior counsel K.T.S. Tulsi told the court that Bhullar’s curative petition is pending since September 2013.
Tulsi told the court that the April 14, 2013, ruling declining to commute Bhullar’s death sentence into life imprisonment on the grounds that he was convicted under the terror law has become invalid in the light of the recent three-judge verdict of tghe apex court.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Sathasivam ruled that delay in the president deciding the mercy petition and mental illness of death row convict are grounds for commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.
The court also said that while commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment on grounds of inordinate delay in deciding the mercy petition by the president, the court’s decision would not be coloured by the consideration whether the person on death row was convicted under the provision of Indian Penal Code or the terror laws.
“The only aspect the courts have to satisfy is that the delay must be unreasonable and unexplained or inordinate at the hands of the executive,” it said.
The apex court by its earlier verdict, rejecting Bhullar’s plea, had said: “If the enormity of the crime is such that a large number of innocent people are killed without rhyme or reason, the exercise of power by the president or the governor, as the case may be, not to entertain the prayer for mercy in such cases cannot be characterized as arbitrary or unreasonable and the court cannot exercise power of judicial review only on the ground of undue delay.”
In the case of Bhullar, it has been canvassed that not only there was delay in deciding his mercy petition but he was also mentally ill and undergoing treatment in a mental hospital. It has also been said that the apex court verdict confirming his death sentence was a split verdict, with a majority confirming the capital punishment.
Bhullar was sentenced to death for the 1993 blast at the Youth Congress office, a stone’s throw from Parliament House in Delhi, which left nine dead. The attack was targeted against then Youth Congress leader M.S. Bitta.