Terror convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar will not be executed as the Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday that his death sentence should be commuted to life.
The Centre conceded that his wife Navneet Kaur’s plea for commutation has to be allowed in view of the delay in deciding the mercy petition as well as his mental illness.
“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 told the Bench led by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam.
The AG 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.
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.
Can’t express how much this means to me, says wife
Navneet Bhullar, wife of death row convict Devinder Singh Bhullar, said Thursday had brought the “first smell of relief”. “I have fought so long and seen so many court judgments… the disappointment that follows, that I am almost scared to hope now. But this was the first smell of relief, of hope that we can get justice after all,” she told The Indian Express. “It is unimaginable living like I have, always worried and scared they will execute my husband. So in that sense, I cannot express how much this means to me, “ she said. “Age is catching up with us…he is losing weight, and is still under treatment at IHBAS. It doesn’t make any sense to inform him about verdicts…I hope he gets to be a free man and we spend some years together,” she said. The couple was together for barely three months after their marriage in 1991.