Indian government tells Supreme Court it will decide on Bhullar’s mercy petition

New Delhi (IANS): The central government Wednesday told the Supreme Court it will decide on the mercy petition seeking commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment for Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, convicted of a terror strike at the Youth Congress office in Delhi in 1993.

The mercy petition was filed by Bhullar’s wife Navneet Kaur.

The government was allowed two weeks’ time after Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati told the bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya that the Jan 6 recommendation of Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung to accept the mercy petition has reached the president’s office without the petition.

Vahanvati told the court that the mercy petition along with the recommendation of the Lt. Governor will be processed by the home ministry and sent to President Pranab Mukherjee.

Jung said Jan 6 that the question before him “is whether in terms of moral principles such a person can be condemned to death”.

“In many ways, it would appear as if a child without a mind and in poor health is condemned to death for an incident that he committed when his mind and body were in a completely different state. On principles of human ethics and natural justice, I cannot bring myself to recommend the rejection of the mercy petition of Smt. Navneet Kaur,” he said.

Giving two weeks’ time to the government to deal with the mercy petition, the court said the decision “has to be taken without delay. Every day delay is a torture (to death row convict)”.

As Vahanvati mentioned the medical reports placed before the lt. governor, the court said that “apart from all that we have fresh report and a mentally ill person can’t be executed”.

Seeking two weeks’ time, Vahanvati said he did not want to go into the curative petition as then he would have to address the court on its scope and whether it could invoke the judgment of Jan 21, 2014, for seeking relief.

Bhullar’s review petition was rejected in 2013.

Navneet Kaur moved a curative petition in September 2013, challenging the rejection of her’s and Bhullar’s review petition April 12, 2013.

Navneet Kaur pressed for her curative petition after the Jan 21, 2014, apex court verdict upturned the April 12, 2013 judgment.

The court by its Jan 21 judgment said the commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate, unexplained and unreasonable delay in deciding the mercy petition was not limited to death row convicts tried under the provisions of criminal law but also to those convicted under anti-terror law.

At the outset of the hearing, Vahanvati told the court that the Jan 6 recommendation of the lt. governor favouring accepting the mercy petition was sent to the president’s office without accompanying the mercy petition by Kaur.

He told the court that the government needed two weeks time so that the mercy petition by Navneet Kaur and recommendation of Jung are processed and sent to the president with the recommendation of the home ministry.

The court scheduled its next hearing for March 10.