New Delhi: In a big relief to Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, the Supreme Court on Monday commuted the death sentence of the 1993 terror convict to life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his mercy petition and that he suffered from Schizophrenia.
A bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam allowed the curative petition filed by Bhullar’ s wife Navneet Kaur while also taking on record the government’s submission that Bhullar’s was a case that had to be allowed. The Centre had on Thursday told the court that his death sentence should be commuted to life.
The Centre had conceded that his wife’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 had said the Bench.
The AG had 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.
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.