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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Dec 2014

On ground of delay, can death sentence be commuted to life term? SC to give verdict today

PTI  New Delhi, April 12, 2013
First Published: 08:56 IST(12/4/2013) | Last Updated: 11:39 IST(12/4/2013)

The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on Friday on whether death sentence of a condemned prisoner can be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in executing the capital punishment.

A bench of justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhyay is also expected to pass order on a plea of NGO for fixing a time-frame for dealing with the mercy petitions.

The verdict might have a bearing on a number of petitions filed by other condemned prisoners including death row convict in Rajiv Gandhi murder case seeking for commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay.

The bench had reserved its order on April 19 last year on the issue on a plea of Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar's family which had filed a petition on his behalf pleading that his capital punishment be commuted to life imprisonment as there has been "inordinate" delay in deciding his mercy plea and he is not mentally sound.

It was submitted that prolonged incarceration of a death row convict awaiting his/her execution amounted to cruelty and violated the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Bhullar was awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September, 1993, killing nine people.

The Supreme Court had on March 26, 2002, dismissed Bhullar's appeal against the death sentence awarded by trial court and endorsed by the Delhi high court.

He had filed a review petition which was also dismissed on December 17, 2002. Bhullar had then moved a curative petition which too had been rejected by the apex court on March 12, 2003.

Bhullar, meanwhile, had filed a mercy petition before the President on January 14, 2003. The President, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed his mercy plea on May 25 last year.


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