New Delhi: The central government Thursday said that there was delay in the deciding death row convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s mercy petition and the court could decide on his wife’s plea for commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment.
Bhullar was convicted for his involvement in 1993 Delhi bomb blast case and his wife Navneet Kaur has sought commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on grounds of delay in deciding his mercy petition and also on grounds he is suffering from mental illness.
A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice R.M.Lodha, Justice H.L.Dattu and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya was told that the court, by its Jan 21 verdict, had already decided that inordinate and unexplained delay in deciding the mercy petition by the president is a ground for commuting death sentence into life imprisonment.
Vahanvati told the court that Jan 21 verdict of the court has rendered per incuriam the April 12, 2013 verdict wherein the apex court, while rejecting Bhullar’s plea, held that the delay in the rejection of a mercy petition of a death row convict by the president was not open to judicial review if the conviction was based on a crime that involved the loss of a large number of innocent lives.
Appreciating the position articulated by Vahanvati, the court said that it was a fair stand and reserved its order which it said may be pronounced Monday or Tuesday.
The central government’s plea for the recall of the Jan 21 verdict has already been dismissed.
The court by its Jan 21 judgment had said the commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate, unexplained and unreasonable delay in deciding the mercy petition was not limited to the death row convicts tried under the provisions of criminal law but also to those convicted under anti-terror laws.
The court had also said that besides delay, insanity/mental illness/schizophrenia could also be the grounds for seeking commuting death sentence to life imprisonment.
Taking note of the mental illness of Bhullar, Delhi’s Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung Jan 6 said: “The question before me 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”.