Prez rejects Khalistani terrorist’s mercy petition
In a move paving the way for an early decision on the mercy pleas of Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, President Pratibha Patil on Thursday rejected the mercy petition of Khalistani terrorist Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar. Saroj Nagi reports. 9-year wait for deathdelhi Updated: May 27, 2011 09:34 IST
In a move paving the way for an early decision on the mercy pleas of Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, President Pratibha Patil on Thursday rejected the mercy petition of Khalistani terrorist Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar.
This was the second mercy petition from a convict sentenced to death that the President has turned down in the past two months.Khalistan Liberation Force operative Bhullar was convicted for a bombing outside the Indian Youth Congress office in Delhi that killed nine persons in 1993. He was sentenced to death by a trial court in August 2001 and appealed for mercy the next year.
About two months ago, Patil had in an unpublicised move rejected the mercy petition of Mahendra Nath Das of Assam. Das was sentenced to death for murdering a person while out on bail in another murder case.
Thursday’s decision came two days after the Supreme Court put the Delhi government on notice on Bhullar’s petition that his sentence be reduced to life imprisonment as the President had not decided on his mercy plea since 2002.
Senior advocate KTS Tulsi, who represented Bhullar in the apex court, said he cannot be executed till the court disposes of his petition.
“If this decision could be taken in just two days, what can be the justification for not deciding the mercy plea for eight years? If there is no satisfactory explanation, the sentence is liable to be commuted to life imprisonment,” Tulsi said.
The disposal of the two cases by Patil now shifts the focus to other high-profile cases — including those of Afzal Guru and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, which have moved a little up in the list. The BJP had made a political issue of the delay in hanging Afzal, insisting it symbolised the Congress’s soft approach towards terrorism.
Over the last 15 years, the delay in deciding on mercy petitions prompted demands that India scrap the death penalty. APJ Abdul Kalam was the last President to reject a plea for mercy but had made no secret of his reluctance. This was in 2004 when his decision sent Dhananjay Chatterjee – accused of raping and killing a girl – to the gallows in West Bengal. He had also commuted Kheraj Ram’s sentence to life imprisonment.
Taking up each case on merit, Patil has commuted more than a dozen death sentences. KR Narayanan did not clear any file from 1997 to 2002.