Apex court cites delay, mental illness to give Bhullar life

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday commuted to life the death sentence awarded to Khalistani terrorist Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar convicted in a deadly Delhi car bombing, citing eight-year delay in deciding his mercy plea and his mental illness.

Relief to Bhullar is the latest in a string of orders that the top court has passed after its landmark ruling on January 21 laid out restrictions on executing prisoners. It had identified prolonged and unexplained delays in deciding mercy pleas and mental illness as grounds for commuting death sentence.

“…we deem it fit to commute the death sentence imposed on Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar into life imprisonment both on the ground of unexplained/inordinate delay of eight years in disposal of mercy petition and on the ground of insanity,” Chief Justice P Sathasivam, writing the judgment for a four-judge bench, said. A member of the separatist Khalistan Liberation Force, Bhullar was sentenced to death in 2001 for triggering a car bomb that killed nine people and injured 17 outside the Youth Congress’ office in Delhi on September 11, 1993. The blast, in which 40kg RDX was used, targeted YC chief MS Bitta but he escaped with shrapnel wounds.

After examining medical reports that confirmed Bhullar suffered with severe depression, the bench gave relief to the 49-year-old former engineering college teacher on a curative petition filed by his wife, Navneet Kaur. Curative petition is the last judicial resort a petitioner can seek. During the last hearing, Attorney General GE Vahanvati told the court that the death sentence would not be carried out as Bhullar was mentally ill.

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