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Apex court rejects Bhullar’s mercy plea

Apex court rejects Bhullar’s mercy plea
The Supreme Court on Friday rejected 1993 Delhi bomb blast case convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s plea for commuting death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground that it cannot be invoked in cases where a person is convicted for terrorist activities. The judgement could have impact on 16 death row convicts.

The bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhya observed that India is one of the worst victims of terrorism and held that the decision of the President or the Governor not to entertain mercy pleas of people convicted for terrorism and other serious offences cannot be characterised as arbitrary and the court cannot exercise power of judicial review only on the ground of
undue delay.

The court said that the apex court’s earlier judgments holding that long delay may be one of the grounds for commutation of the death sentence cannot be invoked in cases where a person is convicted for offence under TADA or similar statutes. Bhullar was given the death sentence for killing nine people with a car bomb in Delhi in 1993, in which the then Youth Congress president M S Bitta also suffered debilitating injuries.

The Supreme Court said such cases stand on an altogether different plane and cannot be compared with murders committed due to personal animosity or over property and personal disputes and the seriousness of the crimes committed by the terrorists can be gauged from the fact that many hundred innocent civilians and men in uniform have lost their lives.

‘It is paradoxical that the people who do not show any mercy or compassion for others plead for mercy and project delay in disposal of the petition filed under Article 72 or 161 of the Constitution as a ground for commutation of the sentence of death. Many others join the bandwagon to espouse the cause of terrorists involved in gruesome killing and mass murder of innocent civilians and raise the bogey of human rights,’ said the court.

The court, while paving way for Bhullar’s execution, also noted that a substantial portion of the delay in deciding his mercy petition by the President can well nigh be attributed to the unending spate of the petitions on Bhullar’s behalf by various persons.

Bhullar’s counsel and others had argued that long delay of eight years in disposal of the petition filed under Article 72 should be treated as sufficient for commutation of the sentence of death into life imprisonment. More so, because of prolonged detention, the petitioner has become mentally sick. The thrust of their argument was that inordinate delay in disposal of mercy petition has rendered the death sentence rather cruel and inhuman.
Nitish K Singh

Nitish K Singh

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