New Delhi: In a judgement that will lay precedence for others, the Supreme Court on Friday rejected the mercy petition filed by Punjab militant Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, who was convicted of killing nine people with a car bomb in Delhi in 1993.
Delivering the verdict in a packed court room, a bench of justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya said that the petitioners failed to make out a case for commutation of sentence.
48-year-old Bhullar`s Canada-based wife, Navneet Kaur, who was present in the court when the bench read out at 11.15 am two sentences of the operative portion of their verdict, looked dejected and refused to respond to questions from reporters as she left the court premises.
The apex court had reserved its order on April 19 last year on the plea of Bhullar`s family which had filed a petition on his behalf pleading that his capital punishment be commuted to life imprisonment as there has been "inordinate" delay in deciding his mercy plea and he is not mentally sound.
It was submitted that prolonged incarceration of a death row convict awaiting his/her execution amounted to cruelty and violated the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Bhullar was awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast here in September 1993, killing nine people and injuring 25 others, including then Youth Congress president MS Bitta.
The apex court had on March 26, 2002, dismissed Bhullar`s appeal against the death sentence awarded by a trial court in August 2001 and endorsed by the Delhi High Court in 2002.
He had filed a review petition which was also dismissed on December 17, 2002. Bhullar had then moved a curative petition which too had been rejected by the apex court on March 12, 2003.
Bhullar, meanwhile, had filed a mercy petition before the President on January 14, 2003. The President, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed his mercy plea on May 25, 2011.
Today`s decision will pave the way for his hanging and is likely to have an impact on 17 other convicts on the death row including those held guilty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Those held guilty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case had pleaded that their death penalty should be commuted because the President took 11 years to reject their appeal. They have already spent 22 years in prison.
With PTI inputs