The decision will pave the way for his hanging and is likely to have an impact on 17 other convicts on the death row including those held guilty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s plea for commutation of the death sentence against him, the Supreme Court today said it cannot be done in the case of terrorists or those involved in mass killings on the ground of delay in deciding their mercy plea.
In a judgement that paves the way for Bhullar’s execution and could have an impact on 16 other death row convicts, including three convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, facing execution, the Supreme Court today said it was a “paradox” that those who had not shown any mercy to their victims were now pleading for it.
Observing that India is one of the worst victims of terrorism, the apex court held that the decision of President or governor not to entertain mercy pleas of people convicted for terrorism and other serious offences cannot be characterized as arbitrary and the court cannot exercise power of judicial review only on the ground of undue delay.
The bench of Justice GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhya said that the apex court’s earlier judgements holding that long delay may be one of the grounds for commutation of the death sentence cannot be invoked in cases where a person is convicted for offence under TADA or similar statutes.
“We are also of the view that the rule enunciated in Sher Singh’s case, Triveniben’s case and some other judgments that long delay may be one of the grounds for commutation of the sentence of death into life imprisonment cannot be invoked in cases where a person is convicted for offence under TADA or similar statutes.
“Such cases stand on an altogether different plane and cannot be compared with murders committed due to personal animosity or over property and personal disputes,” the apex court bench said.
It said that it was a “paradox” that people, who themselves had not shown any mercy while killing people, are pleading for mercy and pulled up activists for raising human rights of terrorists who had not shown any respect for lives.
They use bullets, bombs and other weapons of mass killing for achieving their perverted political and other goals or wage war against the State.
“While doing(killing) so, they do not show any respect for human lives. Before killing the victims, they do not think even for a second about the parents, wives, children and other near and dear ones of the victims.
“The families of those killed suffer the agony for their entire life, apart from financial and other losses. It is paradoxical that the people who do not show any mercy or compassion for others plead for mercy and project delay in disposal mercy petition as a ground for commutation of the sentence of death,” the bench said.
The apex court also justified death penalty in the country particularly in view of growing number of terrorist activities in which hundreds of innocent civilians and men in uniform have lost their lives.
“If the murder is committed in an extremely brutal or dastardly manner, which gives rise to intense and extreme indignation in the community, the Court may be fully justified in awarding the death penalty. If the murder is committed by burning the bride for the sake of money or satisfaction of other kinds of greed, there will be ample justification for awarding the death penalty.
“If the enormity of the crime is such that a large number of innocent people are killed without rhyme or reason, then too, award of extreme penalty of death will be justified. All these factors have to be taken into consideration by the President or the Governor while deciding mercy plea,” the bench said.
“While there is no abatement in the crimes committed due to personal animosity and property disputes, people across the world have suffered on account of new forms of crimes. The monster of terrorism has spread its tentacles in most of the countries.
“India is one of the worst victims of internal and external terrorism. In the last three decades, hundreds of innocent lives have been lost on account of the activities of terrorists, who have mercilessly killed people by using bullets, bombs and other modern weapons,” the bench said.
The apex court also took a dig at people fighting for terrorists’ human right saying, “Many others join the bandwagon to espouse the cause of terrorists involved in gruesome killing and mass murder of innocent civilians and raise the bogey of human rights.”
The bench said though the argument of commuting death sentence on ground of delay in deciding mercy plea appears “attractive” but Bhuller’s case “is not a fit one for exercise of the power of judicial review for quashing the decision taken by the president not to commute the sentence of death imposed on him.”
“It is true that there was considerable delay in disposal of the petition filed by the petitioner but, keeping in view the peculiar facts of the case, we are convinced that there is no valid ground to interfere with the ultimate decision taken by the president not to commute the sentence of death awarded to the petitioner into life imprisonment.
“We can take judicial notice of the fact that a substantial portion of the delay can well-nigh be attributed to the unending spate of the petitions on behalf of the petitioner by various persons to which reference has been made herein above,” the judgment said.