Delhi SRB rejects Bhullar’s premature release, triggers row
SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia said it is extremely unfortunate to reject the release of Bhullar in Delhi, demanded his immediate release
The Sentence Review Board (SRB) of the Delhi government has rejected the premature release plea by Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, a convict in the 1993 Delhi bomb blast case currently lodged in Amritsar jail, a senior official aware of the matter said on Tuesday.
The official said that SRB, headed by Delhi home minister Kailash Gahlot, met on December 21 to consider 46 cases of life convicts seeking remission in their sentence. SRB decided to release 14 convicts while rejecting others, including Bhullar, the official added.
It was the seventh time since 2018 that the plea by Bhullar was rejected by the board.
In an order on January 19, the home department said that in exercise of the powers conferred under section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the lieutenant governor is “pleased to remit the unexpired portion of sentence of 14 life convicts on the Sentence Review Board’s recommendations in its meeting on December 21, 2023”. But the order did not mention the cases that were rejected by the board.
Apart from the Delhi home minister, the other six members of the board include the director general of Tihar prison (an IPS officer of AGMUT cadre), secretaries of home and law departments of the Delhi government, director of social welfare department of the Delhi government, a district judge and a senior Delhi Police officer.
The decision, however, kicked up a political row with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal targeting the Delhi and Punjab chief ministers for the move, and the AAP hitting back by saying that except the Delhi minister all other members of the board voted against Bhullar’s plea.
“By teaming up to reject the premature release plea of Prof Devinderpal Singh Bhullar they have (Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann) both sprinkled salt on the wounds of the Sikh Sangat,” Badal said in his post.
SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia, in a separate post on X, said it was extremely unfortunate to reject the release of Bhullar, and demanded his immediate release. Malvinder Singh Kang, AAP Punjab chief spokesperson, hit back at the two Akali leaders, saying they were “lying”.
“A 7-member sentence review board considered Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar’s plea. It has one AAP Delhi cabinet minister Kailash Gehlot as member and six others members belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an old ally of SAD (Badal). In the meeting only the AAP minister demanded the premature release of Bhullar. Gahlot said that Bhullar should be released because he has been behind bars for more than 25 years and physical and mental health has not been good. All other six members voted against his release, so with the majority of 6:1 Bhullar’s premature release case was rejected,” Kang said showing the minutes of the SRB meeting.
The Delhi BJP did not comment on the matter.
To be sure, all other members of the board, except Gahlot, do not belong to any political party.
Kang said that Badal and Majithia were trying to create unrest in Punjab as they had been thrown out of power.
Bhullar was convicted in connection with the killing of nine people and injuring of 31 in a bomb blast in 1993 outside the Youth Congress headquarters in Delhi. Among those who survived the attack is former Youth Congress chief MS Bitta.
Bhullar was sentenced to death by a designated TADA court on August 25, 2001. He is serving life imprisonment after the Supreme Court commuted his death sentence. He was shifted to Amritsar Central Jail from Delhi’s Tihar Jail on health grounds in June 2015.
A Delhi government official said that the seven-member board regularly meets to consider the fresh and rejected cases for premature release of convicts undergoing life sentence, according to rules mentioned in Delhi Prison Rules, 2018.