May 10, 2013 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
New Delhi, India (May 10, 2013): Sikh political prisoner Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar is on death row in India since 2001, but now he is facing threat of imminent execution.
Prof. Bhullar was sentenced to death by a TADA court in 2001. His conviction was solely based on a fractured confession extracted in police custody through torture.
On appeal to Supreme Court of India, the presiding judge of three judges bench had acquitted Prof. DPS Bhullar, while two other judges confirmed his death sentence in 2002. His review petition and curative petitions were rejected by the Supreme Court in 2002 and 2003.
In 2003, a constitutional review petition was moved on Prof. Bhullar’s behalf before the President of India. In 2011 the President of India had rejected a constitutional review petition against his death sentence. The Indian government has ignored clemency grounds while rejecting peititon moved on Prof. Bhullar’s behalf.
The Supreme Court of India (SCI) rejected a clemency plea on April 12, 2013.
As Prof. DPS Bhullar is in mental asylum since 2010, the Delhi state health department has appointed a medical board to submit report on his health condition, so that the death sentence could be executed. The board is reportedly headed by Dr S K Khandelwal from AIIMS, includes one psychiatrist each from Maulana Azad Medical College and GB Pant Hospital.
According a news report by Indian Express (dtd. April 24, 2013): “[a] senior government official said: ‘While no formal deadline has been communicated in the order, we expect the procedure of examination to be completed within two to three weeks’.”
According to a Times of India (TOI): “experts feel the outcome of the health report is unlikely to affect the chances of his hanging”.
The TOI has further reported that: [“A convict having suicidal tendencies is no ground to stay his hanging, as per the jail manual,” said a prison source.
The medical board will comprise independent experts from different government hospitals.
“Since the Supreme Court has already given the judgement, the hanging should normally still happen. Constituting the board will clearly explain the mental condition of the convict. A convict having suicidal tendencies is no ground to stay his hanging, as per jail manual,” said a jail source].
There is another development which indicates that Prof. DPS Bhullar is facing imminent threat of execution.
On May 07, 2013 the Supreme Court of India (SCI) refused to grant a stay on the execution of Prof. Bhullar.
Bibi Navneet Kaur, wife of Prof. Bhullar had moved a petition in the SCI through senior lawyer Ram Jeth Malani.
Seeking a stay on execution of Prof. Bhullar, advocate Ram Jethmalani expressed apprehension that Bhullar could be hanged in secrecy like Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru even though his review petition remained pending.
“We don’t want to know it from the newspapers or TV channels in the morning that he has been hanged. It has been happening in this country and last hangings were under such circumstances,” Jethmalani reportedly argued on May 07, 2013 before a Bench led by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir.
But the SCI refused to grant the prayed stay.
It must be remembered that India has recently executed two persons in secrecy. Lone surviving gunman of 2008 Mumbai strikes was executed secretly on November 05, 2012 in Pune’s Yerwada Jail; while Kashmiri youth Afzal Guru was executed on February 09, 2013 in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. No information was released by Indian authorities prior to the execution of Kasab or Guru.
As almost all legal and constitutional remedies have already been exhausted in Prof. Bhullar’s case; there are strong apprehensions that he could he executed by India at any moment, in secrecy.
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