The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to speed up the hearing of a curative petition filed by the wife of death row convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar against rejection of his mercy plea.
A Bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam fixed January 28 and 29 to hear the petition – days after the apex court ruled that the death sentence of a condemned prisoner can be commuted to life on grounds of delay in deciding mercy plea and mental condition of the convict.
In August 2013, the court had rejected a review petition filed by Bullar’s wife against the Supreme Court’s April 2013 verdict. By its April verdict, a two-judge Bench had held that a delay by the executive in deciding a mercy petition was not adequate ground to condone death sentence into life term. It had also turned down the plea to condone Bhullar’s punishment because of his mental illness.
However, with the larger bench verdict clarifying earlier this week that unexplained and inordinate delay in deciding a mercy plea, as well as mental illness of a condemned prisoner, were adequate grounds to commute the death sentence, Bhullar’s case got a new life.
On Friday, senior advocate K T S Tulsi, appearing for Bhullar’s wife, mentioned the matter and pleaded the court to direct his medical examination since he was suffering from mental illness.
The court agreed to expedite the hearing.
Khalistan Liberation Force terrorist Bhullar was awarded the death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, in which nine people were killed.
With all his legal remedies exhausted in March 2003 after the Supreme Court dismissed his curative petition, his mercy plea filed before the President in January 2003 remained pending till May 2011.
The President then rejected his mercy plea. Citing this delay, he had again moved the apex court for commutation of the death sentence.