October 19, 2011 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
New Delhi (October 19, 2011): The case of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar did not come for hearing in the Supreme Court of India today. The case was listed for hearing on number 28 but could not be taken up, due to shortage of time.
Mata Upkar Kaur, mother of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, SAD (Panch Pardhani) Secretary, Bhai Harpal Singh Cheema, Youth Sikh leader Bhai Mandhir Singh, Parmjeet Singh Gazi of Sikh Students Federation and representatives of Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee were present in the Supreme Court today.
Meanwhile, according to a news item published by India Today, on its’ website, the Centre has submitted before the Supreme Court that Devender Pal Singh Bhullar should have no reason to complain against the delay in disposal of his mercy petition because the pendency of the plea had, in fact, given him a “lease of life”.
In an affidavit before India’s apex court, the home ministry has presented its’ strange logic that if the mercy petition was rejected, Bhullar would have faced the prospect of “immediate hanging”. And if his mercy petition was allowed, he would have remained in jail for the rest of his life unless the government decided to release him early; and further that: “Bhullar would have in fact liked his mercy petition to be kept pending “as long as possible” rather than it being rejected”
The affidavit, filed by joint secretary J.L. Chugh, states “It is the pendency of the mercy petition that has given the petitioner the right to live, albeit in prison. The affidavit has come in response to a petition filed before the Supreme Court by Bhullar questioning the delay of eight years in deciding his mercy petition.
Contending that keeping the petition pending was an act of cruelty as it had added to his suffering, Bhullar has sought commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment.
Bhullar, who had been sentenced to death in a split decision, with prisiding judge of acquitting while two other judges convicting him, had filed a review petition before the President on January 14, 2003. The petition was rejected by the President on May 25, 2011. A defected statement given in police custody forms the only basis of his conviction. It is notable that this statement was altogether rejected, as being false and fabricated, by Justice M. B. Shah of the Supreme Court of India.
Currently the Supreme Court is holding the hearing of petition filed by Navneet Kaur, wife of Professor Bhullar, who, in her petition, has cited the apex court’s ruling in the Triveniben Vs State of Gujarat (1989) case that undue delay in execution of death sentence entitles the condemned prisoner under Article 32 of the Constitution to approach the court that his death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.
In an attempt to evade the point that pendency had added to his suffering, the Centre said the pendency could not be considered to be an act of cruelty.
“In fact, it is the pendency which has given a lease of life to the prisoner,” it added.
The home ministry said the court had the right to consider whether there was an inordinate delay for which the prisoner could be given the benefit. But it added that in this case, there was no such delay.
Coming to the question of law, it said clemency was a special power for which no time frame could be set for the President. The court cannot prescribe a time limit for disposal of a mercy plea after deciding that the convict must be sentenced to death.
“It is further submitted that once the court of law has upheld the conviction based on evidence and awarded death sentence, the petitioner by no stretch of imagination can complain that his fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 has been violated,” the Centre said.
While maintaining that there was no delay, the Centre said legal as well as Constitutional processes are time consuming.
“The time taken for disposal of mercy petitions depends upon the nature of the case and the scope of examination to be made,” it is reported to have said by India Today.
On Bhullar citing the international conventions talking about the need to abolish capital punishment, the Centre said in India death penalty existed in the statute book and was exercised in the rarest of rare cases.
“This case is a ‘rarest of rare’ case and imposing the death sentence cannot be said to be a violation of fundamental rights,” it added.
“The petitioner has a right to file a petition before the competent court on the delay of mercy petition but the court will only examine the nature of delay caused and circumstances ensured after sentence was finally confirmed by the judicial process and will have no jurisdiction to re-open the conclusion reached by the court,” the Centre said while pleading that no relief be given to Bhuller, adds Hindustan Times.
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