The Supreme Court on Monday commuted the death penalty of terror convict Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar to life term over mental illness and an inordinate delay by the government in deciding his mercy plea.
A bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam allowed the curative petition filed by Bhullar’ s wife Navneet Kaur while also taking on record the government’s submission that Bhullar’s was a case that had to be allowed. The Centre had on Thursday told he court that his death sentence should be commuted to life.
The Centre had conceded that his wife’s plea for commutation has to be allowed in view of the delay in deciding the mercy petition as well as his mental illness.
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“This is a case which has to be allowed because the mercy petition… was decided after a delay of eight years,” Attorney General G E Vahanvati had told the Bench.
The AG had referred to a January verdict of the SC, ruling that inordinate delay in deciding a mercy petition and mental illness were grounds to commute a death sentence. He also pointed out that this verdict had overruled a previous judgment, which rejected a plea by Bhullar’s wife on commuting his sentence on these grounds.
“Besides, our review petition against the court’s January 21 judgment has also been dismissed. So we have to follow the judgment now and we have no problems,” Vahanvati said.
The Bench hailed the government’s stand, saying it expected a reasoned decision to help us personalise your reading experience.
The court said it will pronounce a formal order next week. Earlier, the proceedings had been adjourned twice to wait for a decision by the President on the mercy petition. However, the AG refrained from informing the court about its fate on Thursday.
Significantly, The Indian Express had on March 12 reported that President Pranab Mukherjee and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) were learnt to have differed on commutation of death sentence. While Mukherjee had found favour with the recommendation of Delhi’s Lt-Governor to commute the death penalty, the MHA was against it.