Press Council of India chairman and justice Markandeya Katju on Saturday sought mercy for Khalistani terrorist Devender Pal Bhullar a day after the Supreme Court dismissed his plea to commute death sentence to life imprisonment and ordered his hanging.
Besides noting that justice MB Shah, the senior most judge in the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court which upheld Bhullar’s death sentence in 2002 had differed with the other two judge and said he deserved to be acquitted for lack of evidence, Katju also said the fact that Bhullar suffered from chronic psychiatric problem also needed to be considered.
Katju had earlier triggered a debate appealing for pardon for actor Sanjay Dutt who has been sentenced to five-years imprisonment by the Supreme Court for possessing illegal arms in the 1993 Bombay blasts case.
“Constitution does not bar a second mercy petition. Hence, I as a citizen of India am also entitled to move this mercy petition”, Katju said in a petition sent to the President, Prime Minister and Delhi Lt Governor.
Katju said the Supreme Court judgment in 2002 upholding death for Bhullar was not unanimous as Justice MB Shah, senior most in the three judge bench differed with other two judges and said Bhullar should be acquitted. Katju also pointed out that Bhullar suffered from some chronic psychiatric problem. Read Katju's letter here
“Justice Shah noticed that only evidence against Bhullar is his alleged confessional statement to investigating office. Justice Shah has observed that “when the rest of the accused who are named in the confessional statement are not convicted or tried, this was not a fit case for convicting the appellant solely on the basis of the so called confessional statement recorded by the police officer,” Katju said.
According to Katju, Justice Shah noted "without corroborative evidence, it would be difficult to solely rely upon so-called confessional statement.
“Bhullar is convicted for conspiring the blasts; how can only one person be convicted for conspiracy, one cannot conspire with oneself,” Katju felt.
Katju said that Bhullar has been in detention since his arrival in India in January 1995 i.e. over 18 years and has already suffered prolonged mental agony and trauma for this long period in death row with a damocles sword hanging over his head. “Hence in pardon proceeding under Article 72 this is also one of the factors, among others, which the President should take into account in deciding this petition under Article 72,”
“I also understand that Bhullar is having some chronic psychiatric problem. In these circumstances, considering all of them cumulatively, I respectfully request Your Excellency to pardon/commute the death sentence of Bhullar who has been on death row for a long period,” Katju added.