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Bhullar to hang for ‘93 Delhi blast
SC rejects mercy plea 
Says delays, his mental status no reasons to commute death penalty

R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 12
The Supreme Court today rejected death-row convict Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar’s plea for saving him from the gallows, holding that terrorists had no right to seek mercy citing official delays and other reasons.

A trial court in Delhi had sentenced Bhullar to death in August 2001 for his role in the 1993 bomb attack on Youth Congress president MS Bitta in which nine security personnel were killed and 17 injured, including Bitta.

“It is paradoxical that people who do not show any mercy or compassion for others plead for mercy” citing delays in the disposal of their mercy petitions, a Bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya said in their 72-page judgment.

“It is true that there was considerable delay in the rejection of his mercy plea by the President, but keeping in view the peculiar facts of the case, we are convinced that there is no valid ground to interfere with the ultimate decision taken by the President not to commute the sentence of death awarded to the petitioner into life imprisonment,” the Bench said.

Rejecting Bhullar’s another contention that he should not be hanged as he had become mentally sick, the apex court acknowledged that the documents given to it “do give an indication” that he had “suffered physically and mentally” due to prolonged detention in jail.

But this “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,” the SC ruled.

The SC ruling is bound to dash the hopes of several other death-row convicts, particularly the three (Santhan, Murugan and Arivu) involved in the May 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who have also sought commutation of their sentence to life citing the long delays in the rejection of their petitions.

The Bench said it was of the view that earlier apex court rulings that long delays could be one of the grounds for commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment “cannot be invoked in cases where a person is convicted for offences under TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act) or similar statutes.

“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. 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 said.

“At times, their objective is to annihilate their rivals including the political opponents. They use bullets, bombs and other weapons of mass killing for achieving their perverted political and other goals or wage war against the State.

Chain of events

Sept, 1993: Bhullar triggers a bomb blast in Delhi which killed nine persons and injured 25 others, including then Youth Congress president M S Bitta.

Dec, 1994: Bhullar seeks political asylum in Germany.

Jan, 1995: Germany rejects his asylum plea, deports him to India.

Aug, 2001: Trial court convicts and sentences Bhullar to death.

Mar 26, 2002: Supreme Court dismisses Bhullar's plea against his conviction and sentence.

Dec 17, 2002: SC dismisses Bhullar's review petition.

Jan 14, 2003: Bhullar files mercy petition to President.

March 12, 2003: SC dismisses Bhullar's curative petition.

May 25, 2011: President Pratibha Patil rejects Bhullar's mercy plea. He moves SC seeking commutation of his death sentence to life term on the ground of delay in rejection of his mercy plea.

April 19, 2012: SC reserves its verdict on Bhullar's plea.

April 12, 2013: SC dismisses Bhullar's plea for commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment. 





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