April 10, 2012 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
New Delhi, India (April 10, 2012): Hearing the plea against execution of death sentence awarded by an Indian court to Sikh activist (Prof.) Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, the Supreme Court of India today asked the Government of India (GOI) to furnish details of the number of constitutional review petitions disposed off by the President in 2011, besides other petitions pending with the government for the past several years. Prof. Bhullar is on death row since 2001 and his constitutional review petition was dismissed by President of India, as per recommendations by GOI, few months back. It is notable that Prof. Bhullar’s death sentence was confirmed by Supreme Court of India in 2002, in a split decision. He was convicted by trial court in the absence of reliable evidence and Presiding Judge of Supreme Court of India acquitted him from the case, but two other judges confirmed his death sentence.
As per information, today, the bench of Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhyaya passed a written order to the effect after perusing minutely certain confidential files relating to the mercy pleas placed before it by Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal. The apex court had on April 3 directed the Centre to furnish details of 18 constitutional review petitions, including that of Parliament attack death convict Afzal Guru pending before the President for 7 years.
These directions were passed by the court while dealing with the appeal filed by Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s wife, challenging the undue delay in disposal of her husband’s constitutional review petition by the President of India. But during today’s hearing, the GOI could place only certain details which were examined by the bench in the court.
Assisting the court as amicus curiae ( -an adviser to the court on some matter of law who is not a party to the case), senior counsel T. R. Andhiarujina said “it is inhuman” to keep the death convicts under prolonged incarceration by delaying a decision on the mercy petition whatever may be the nature of their crime, reports Press Trust of India (PTI).
“There is a need for laying down a certain time frame for deciding on such mercy petitions,” T. R. Andhiarujina is said to have added.
The court agreed with the view of the amicus that many death row convicts apparently do not want to risk their case by coming to the court lest their mercy applications are decided immediately by the government. The bench cited the instance of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar. Prof. Bhullar’s constitutional review petition was rejected by President of India within days of his family filing a petition in the Supreme Court, to take the notice of undue delay in deciding the review petition moved on Professor Bhullar’s behalf.
Bhai Mandhir Singh, a youth leader of Akali Dal Panch Pardhani, informed Sikh Siyasat on phone, from Delhi, that the arguments would continue tomorrow.
As per information the court had earlier asked eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani to file written submissions on “whether the President should objectively apply mind while deciding constitutional review petitions”. The apex court had felt the role of the state was perhaps advisory and the final verdict is that of the President.
Appearing for Prof. Bhullar, senior counsel K. T. S. Tulsi had earlier told the court that between 1997 and 2011, the President has disposed off 32 review petitions, 13 of which were done after a 10-year wait. He submitted 14 other cases were disposed off after a delay ranging between four and 10 years while the remaining cases were disposed off between one-four years.
Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, a victim of state repression, was deported from Germany in 1995, after his application for political asylum was rejected there. Later a Frankfurt court observed that German authorities were not aware of full facts at the time of his deportation, otherwise Professor DPS Bhullar was eligible to seek asylum in Germany on the ground that he was facing life threats in India.
The Supreme Court of India had on March 26, 2002, dismissed Bhullar’s appeal, in a split decision, against the death sentence awarded by a designated TADA court.
A review petition was filed with Supreme Court of India, which was dismissed on December 17, 2002 in a split decision, with Presiding judge of three judges bench acquitting Prof. Bhullar while two other judges confirming his death sentence.
Then a curative petition was moved in Supreme Court of India, that was rejected on March 12, 2003.
Meanwhile, various Sikh organizations formed Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar Defence Committee and decided to file a constitutional review petition before the President of India under Article 72, on January 14, 2003.
The President of India, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed the petition on May 25, 2011.
Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar is currently undergoing treatment at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences at Shahdara in Delhi for hypertension, psychiatric illness and suicidal tendencies.
Earlier, in an affidavit in the Supreme Court, the Centre had justified the delay of over eight years in deciding Bhullar’s mercy plea and said “processing such petition is purely a Constitutional process which takes time”.
The Centre had told the court that no time limit can be fixed for disposal of these pleas of convicts on death row and the court cannot prescribe a time limit for it. It had submitted powers conferred on the President to decide a such plea are special powers which cannot be interfered with.
The GOI today contended that the legal process ends up with the final disposal of a case in Supreme court of India and the court can not review the decision formed by the President of India on clemency/review pleas of death row convicts.
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