Bhullar docs say not consulted

Hours after the verdict,doctors at the institute said their medical opinion on Bhullar was never sought.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi | Published: April 13, 2013 2:36 am

Death row convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar,whose plea for commuting his sentence to a life term was rejected by the Supreme Court on Friday,is being treated at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) in Delhi for nearly three years now.

Hours after the verdict,doctors at the institute said their medical opinion on Bhullar was never sought. They maintained that their diagnosis of “depression with psychotic features” still stands,and that Bhullar has a “tendency of suicidal behaviour”.

Dr Nimesh Desai,Director of IHBAS,said: “As per norms,if and when there is an order by a court for medical opinion on any of our prisoners,we constitute a medical board that puts together a cumulative opinion. In Bhullar’s case,such a board was never constituted because there was no order from the judiciary.”

In its judgment,the Supreme Court took note of a September 2011 medical certificate issued by Dr Rajesh Kumar of IHBAS. The court said that documents produced by Bhullar’s counsel K T S Tulsi “do give an indication that on account of prolonged detention in jail after his conviction and sentence to death,the petitioner has suffered physically and mentally,the same cannot be relied upon for recording a finding that the petitioner’s mental health has deteriorated to such an extent that the sentence awarded to him cannot be executed”.

When his comments were sought Friday,Tulsi said: “My client’s doctors were never summoned to ascertain his medical condition… the few documents I submitted were part of the records the hospital sent to the jail in September 2011. No subsequent summons were issued to his doctors to take their opinion in the last two years.”

Asked whether Bhullar could be hanged before doctors declared him mentally fit,Director General (Prisons) Vimla Mehra declined comment. Tihar Jail officials said they were still examining the judgment.

According to IHBAS,the September 2011 certificate was one of many periodical reports issued to Tihar authorities on Bhullar’s condition,one of which could have been independently produced by defence lawyers. “We have never been officially summoned by any court since his admission,for our opinion in the last three years,” Dr Desai said.

He said Bhullar had been put through a series of tests periodically to rule out feigning of mental illness. “To the best of our ability,we have made all possible efforts to rule out the possibility of him feigning mental illness.”

Doctors said Bhullar attempted suicide twice in the hospital toilet in 2011,a few months after his admission there. His security was increased. He is under anti-depressant drugs and is put through regular counselling,but doctors said there has been only marginal improvement.

“His cognitive abilities have improved and he is able to establish rapport fairly well. So,we can say there is a minimal or marginal improvement in the symptoms of depression,but it is only to the tune of 20-30 per cent,” a senior doctor said. He can also recognise his family members,and is well acquainted with the doctors.

Some doctors said his understanding of the meaning of the rejection of his mercy petition is very “shadowy”,and since 2011 he has “been fearful,but seemingly disinterested”.

A doctor said Bhullar is mostly confined to his hospital bed. “His response to counselling fluctuates and on most days,there is hardly any response. Occasionally,he wakes up screaming at night and and says he had a dream he was being hanged. He wakes up shouting bachao,bachao,mujhe chhod do,” the doctor said. This is often followed by withdrawal symptoms,with Bhullar refusing to talk or meet his family and lawyers.

All hope shattered,says Bhullar’s wife

Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s wife said all her hope has been shattered after an 18-year wait and questioned why he had been “singled out”. “The court did not consider our point. We were hopeful my husband’s sentence would be commuted to life term as he has already spent 18 years in jail. “We had suffered a lot and we have waited for long. Our family has been ruined. We have not got any justice till now,” Canada-based Navneet Kaur said.

She claimed the system had not been fair to her husband and questioned why those responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots have not been punished. “I have lost all hope now. Why all this is happening with Sikhs only. Why no one is punishing those who had killed Sikhs in 1984. Why Kishori Lal,Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar are not being punished. There is enough evidence but still they are not being punished.”

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