The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the execution of Khalistan Liberation Force militant Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who is on a death row after conviction in a terror case. Admitting a curative petition filed by Bhullar’s wife against rejection of his mercy plea, a bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and justices R M Lodha, H L Dattu and S J Mukhopadhaya issued notices to central and Delhi governments.
It also asked mental facility IHBAS to send a report on his health conditions. The bench decided to hear the curative petition filed by Bhullar’s wife Nevneet Kaur, days after the apex court ruled that 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 SC’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 a 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. Last week, 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 readily agreed to expedite the hearing. Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorist Bhullar was convicted and awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, which killed nine people and injured 25 others, including then Youth Congress president M S Bitta.
While all his legal remedies exhausted in March 2003 after the SC dismissed his curative petition against the conviction and sentence, his mercy plea filed before the President in January 2003 remained pending till May 2011. The President had rejected his mercy plea. Citing this delay, he had again moved the apex court for commutation of the death sentence.