Ten months after refusing to commute the death sentence of Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar to life imprisonment, the Supreme Court on Friday decided to take a relook at the issue.
In view of the apex court's verdict this week holding that death sentence of a condemned prisoner can be commuted to life on grounds of delay in deciding mercy plea and mental condition of the convict, a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said it will hear the curative plea filed by Bhullar's wife on January 28 and 29 and "notice will have to issued on the petition".
The court passed the observation when senior advocate KTS Tulsi, appearing for Bhullar's wife, mentioned the matter and pleaded the court to direct his medical examination as he is suffering from mental illness.
His wife filed a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict of April 12 in which the court had rejected her plea to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment on grounds of delay on the part of the government in deciding his mercy plea.
Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorist Bhullar was convicted and awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, which killed nine people and injured 25 others, including then Youth Congress president MS Bitta.
The apex court had on March 26, 2002 dismissed Bhullar's appeal against the death sentence awarded by a trial court in August 2001 and endorsed by the Delhi high court in 2002.
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 14, 2011. Citing his delay, he had again moved the apex court for commutation of the death sentence but his plea was rejected.
The apex court on January 21 had held that inordinate delay by government in deciding mercy plea of death row convicts can be a ground for commuting their sentence and had granted life to 15 condemned prisoners including four aides of forest brigand Veerappan.
In a landmark judgement, the court had held that prolonging execution of death sentence has a "dehumanising effect" on condemned prisoners who have to face the "agony" of waiting for years under the shadow of death during the pendency of their mercy plea.