SC commutes Bhullar’s death sentence to life

The apex court, going by its 21 January 2014 verdict, held that inordinate, unexplained and unreasonable delay in deciding the mercy petition and insanity/mental illness/schizophrenia were the circumstances for commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment. Referring to this judgment, the apex court bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice RM Lodha, Justice HL Dattu and Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya said: ‘We deem it fit to commute the death sentence imposed on Bhullar into life imprisonment both on the ground of unexplained/inordinate delay of eight years in disposal of mercy petition and on the ground of insanity.’

The court also referred to 8 February report of the Delhi-based Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) and said, ‘The report clearly shows that he is suffering from acute mental illness.’ Bhuller was examined by a team of expert doctors on 5 February.

Upset over SC’s decision, former Youth Congress chief MS Bitta said that he would seek permission from party president Sonia Gandhi and the court to commit self-immolation. The All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF) chief, who was a target in the 1993 bomb blast for which Bhullar was handed death sentence, said the verdict was a defeat of people fighting against terrorism.

‘After apex court ruling, I don’t want to live any more as we have been today defeated by ‘political terrorism’ which exists in the Congress Party. I will ask Sonia Gandhi to allow me to immolate myself as terrorism has won today and people, who are fighting against terrorism have been defeated,’ said Bitta.

On the other hand, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) hailed the SC’s verdict and said Bhullar should be released immediately. SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said the Supreme Court verdict has reinforced the confidence of the Sikh community in the judicial system.
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