The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear death-row convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar's plea to commute his death sentence to life in the wake of a recent judgment by the apex court that gave relief to 15 such convicts.
The SC had on January 21 held that inordinate delay by the union government in deciding mercy petitions could be a ground to commute death sentence to life.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam considered the curative plea of Bhullar's wife Navneet Kaur and ordered: "List in the open court at 10:30am on January 31." The other members of the bench are justice RM Lodha, justice HL Dattu and justice SJ Mukopadhyaya.
Bhullar's wife wants the top court to reconsider its verdict of April 12, 2013, that rejected his plea to commute his death sentence to life on the ground that the President took eight years to decide his mercy plea. A review petition against the final verdict was also dismissed.
As per SC rules, the order on a curative petition is decided by the top three judges of the court and those who had delivered the verdict. The petition is circulated among the judges, following which the order is passed.
Justice GS Singhvi, who headed the bench with justice Mukopadhyaya that declined Bhullar's petition and review plea, retired in April last year. The court had refused to give relief to him on the ground that he was facing serious charges under the terror law.
The January 21 verdict by a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam virtually overruled the judgment in Bhullar's case and said there could not be distinction between terror and non-terror cases for giving relief on account of delay in execution of the death sentence.
Alleged Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorist Bhullar was convicted and awarded death penalty on the charge of triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, killing nine persons and injuring 25. Then Youth Congress president Maninderjit Singh Bitta was also injured in the attack.
The SC had on March 26, 2002, dismissed his plea against death sentence awarded by a trial court in August 2001 and endorsed by the Delhi high court in 2002. His plea to review the verdict, too, was dismissed by the SC on December 17, 2002. Bhullar's curative plea was rejected on March 12, 2003. Meanwhile, Bhullar filed a mercy petition before the President on January 14, 2003.
After a lapse of more than eight years, the President dismissed his mercy plea on May 14, 2011. Bhullar's wife challenged this rejection before the SC, citing inordinate delay in disposing of the mercy petition. She also claimed that Bhullar was suffering from mental illness.