Updated: March 3, 2022 8:25:53 am
The Delhi government’s Sentence Review Board (SRB) Wednesday deferred the decision on the early release of Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, a 1993 Delhi bomb blast case convict who is currently lodged in Amritsar jail. The move sparked a sharp reaction from Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal who accused Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of blocking the release of Bhullar again, alleging that the AAP leader had “finally bared his true anti-Sikh and anti-Punjab fangs”.
According to officials, the decision which has been pending for several months, was set to be taken in the meeting of the board headed by Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, but was eventually put off till the next SRB meeting
Apart from Jain, the SRB includes director general of Tihar prison, secretaries of Home and Law departments and director of social welfare department of the Delhi government, a district judge and a senior Delhi Police officer as members.
In a statement, Badal said: “Kejriwal’s hypocrisy and villainy stands exposed and his sidekicks in Punjab, Bhagwant Mann and Harpal Cheema, now have a lot to answer for to Punjabis in general and Sikhs in particular on their party’s anti-Sikh and anti-Punjab role.”
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“It is the first shock of reality check to those who were foolish enough to trust Kejriwal’s promises on Bhullar during the polls and didn’t believe us when we pointed out his anti-Sikh communal mindset. The man is full of venom for Sikhs. I’m afraid more shocks to AAP supporters will follow soon,” he added.
Badal said the SAD’s fact-based allegations against the AAP and its national convener stood fully vindicated. “Kejriwal kept lying to Sikhs and befooling them with fake, villainous smiles all through the election campaign, saying he had ordered the review committee to meet and reconsider its earlier decision blocking Bhullar’s release,” he said.
As soon as the polls ended, the AAP national convenor was “quick to reveal his true feline colours”, the SAD chief said, adding, “The cat is truly out of the bag.”
The Akali chief claimed that Kejriwal had first denied that Bhullar’s case was under the purview of his government, saying it was for Government of India to decide. “It was only after we exposed him by releasing copies of his own government’s orders on the matter that he smiled sheepishly and admitted it was indeed his government which had blocked the release. He, however, promised to get the decision reversed by a committee headed by his home minister,” Badal claimed
In 2001, a trial court in Delhi convicted and sentenced Bhullar to death in 1993 bomb attack case that left nine people dead and 31, including former Youth Congress chief M S Bitta, injured. Supreme Court upheld the decision in a split verdict in 2002. Justice M B Shah, senior most judge in the three-judge bench had acquitted Bhullar in the split verdict.
The Supreme Court on March 31, 2014 had commuted Bhullar’s death sentence to life on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his mercy petition.
In 2015, the SAD-BJP government in Punjab and the AAP government in Delhi coordinated to transfer Bhullar from Tihar jail to Amritsar Central Jail, where he is presently lodged. Kejriwal has in the past endorsed Bhullar’s early release.
In October 2019, the Centre had issued a list for the release of eight Sikh prisoners, including Bhullar. The Centre had asked the respective state governments/ UTs to carry out the remission in consultation with the Centre but in 2020, the SRB rejected the proposal for his permanent release.
Ahead of the Punjab Assembly polls, the demand for Bhullar’s release grew stronger, with Sikh bodies and activists submitting memorandums to AAP candidates, asking why the release was being delayed.
Former Punjab CM and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal had recently sought the immediate release of Bhullar in the “larger interest of consolidating peace and communal harmony” in Punjab.
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