From the life of an engineer to a terrorist, it was a short meeting with a Khalistani hardliner in Chandigarh in 1990 that changed the life of terror-convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, an HT investigation had revealed in April 2013.
The death sentence awarded to Bhullar, a convict in a 1993 bomb blast in Delhi that had killed nine people and injured 25, was commuted to a life sentence by the Supreme Court on Monday.
Hailing from the remote, nondescript village of Dialpura Bhai Ka in Bathinda district, Bhullar was once a brilliant student and had studied his bachelor in mechanical engineering from Guru Nanak Engineering College, Ludhiana. He later joined a polytechnic college there, but was made to resign due to ill health.
Later, in 1990, Bhullar joined a technology firm in Chandigarh as an assistant engineer. Soon after shifting to Punjab's capital, it was Bhullar's meeting with Khalistani hardliner Amarpal Singh alias Badesha that changed his life.
Though a promising engineer, Bhullar was angered over Operation Bluestar and took to arms after the meeting. He established close contacts with Sohan Singh, chief of Panthic Committee (Baba Sohan Singh), and other infamous terrorists like Daljeet Singh Bittu, Paramjeet Singh Panjwar, Daya Singh Lahoria, and Manjinder Singh.
But when the police net closed in on terrorists after the formation of Beant Singh government in Punjab, Devinderpal fled to Germany using a fake passport. However, his eventful innings as one of the Punjab's most dreaded terrorist came to an end on December 17, 1994, when he was caught at the Frankfurt airpiort with a fake passport. He was deported to India in January 1995.
September 1993: Bhullar triggers bomb blast in Delhi, killing nine people and injuring 25 others
January 1995: Devinderpal Singh Bhullar arrested under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), a law that subsequently lapsed, and contained provisions incompatible with international fair trial standards.
August 2001: Trial court convicts and sentences Bhullar to death
March 2002: Supreme Court (SC) confirms conviction and death sentence, though one of the three judges found him not guilty, saying there was no evidence to convict him. Bhullar challenges President's rejection of mercy petition before SC, seeks commutation of death sentence on grounds of inordinate delay in consideration
December 17, 2002: SC dismisses review petition
April 2013: SC rejects plea, says prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offences can't appeal for commutation on grounds of inordinate delay
January 14, 2003: Bhullar files mercy petition before President
March 12, 2003: SC dismisses Bhullar's curative petition
May 25, 2011: President Pratibha Patil rejects Bhullar's mercy plea. He, thereafter, moves SC seeking commutation of death sentence to life term on the ground of delay in rejection of mercy plea
January 2014: Larger bench of SC declares decision to be bad in law. Following judgement, SC allows hearing of another petition by Bhullar, seeking commutation of sentence. Fresh mercy petition seeking commutation of sentence is still pending before President. In January 2014, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi recommended that Bhullar's death sentence be commuted, saying, "On principles of human morals and natural justice, I cannot bring myself to recommend the rejection of the mercy petition."