Dismissing a plea by 1993 Delhi bomb blast convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar challenging the rejection of his mercy plea by the president, the Supreme Court yesterday refused to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment. An apex court bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice SJ Mukhopadyay said the petitioner had failed to make a case for commuting death sentence to life imprisonment, on grounds of the delay by the president in deciding his mercy plea.

Devender Pal Singh Bhullar MS Bitta
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar was given capital punishment for the 1993 blast at the Youth Congress office in Delhi which left nine dead. The attack was targeted against then Youth Congress leader MS Bitta. File pics

“The appeal is dismissed,” the court said. Bhullar was given capital punishment for the 1993 blast at the Youth Congress office in Delhi which left nine dead. The attack was targeted against then Youth Congress leader MS Bitta. Bhullar had filed a mercy petition on January 14, 2003, which was rejected by the president on May 25, 2011. While in New Delhi the Congress and the BJP welcomed the Supreme Court ruling, in Punjab the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) termed the ruling as “unfortunate”.

Senior Akali Dal leader Prem Singh Chandumajra said in Chandigarh, “It is an unfortunate judgment. We were hoping that the court would keep in mind the situation in Punjab at that time. We will appeal to the president to review the decision. We will also appeal to the prime minister to intervene.” The SGPC, the mini-parliament of the Sikhs, said it was “disappointed” by the apex court ruling. SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said, “This is an unfortunate thing for the Sikh community.”

‘Justice delivered’
But the man who was the target in the 1993 bomb blast outside the Youth Congress office in New Delhi, Maninderjit Singh Bitta welcomed the ruling. “Bhullar’s file kept moving inside the home ministry, law ministry and the Delhi government for 15 years. I didn’t expect Bhullar will get the death sentence,” Bitta said.

He also alleged that the Sheila Dikshit government had tried to help Bhullar by declaring him “mental”. “Today’s decision was very crucial. We bow before the court,” Bitta said. He also alleged that no one including his Congress party had come forward to help him. “No one was with me. The media also left me. I always asked why they had withdrawn my security cover there was also an attack on me in 1992. My party and my leadership got frightened and left me to fend for myself,” Bitta said. While hearing Bhullar’s petition, the court on November 15, 2011, expanded the scope of the proceedings by taking on board all the 17 mercy petitions pending for several years before the president seeking commutation of death sentences to life imprisonment.

Tweet talk
@prab_the_man India will hang a mentally ill man whose confession was extracted by use of torture
@iShrutiKohli Bhullar’s wife says he’s mentally unstable. Is it? So, you should’ve kept him locked in the house in 1993. Left him open & see what he did!
@rexarul While #SupremeCourtOfIndia judgment on #Bhullar’s case was as expected & based on sound, established law,am disapptd

‘Bhullar mentally unfit to be hanged’
Khalistani terrorist Devender Pal Singh Bhullar needs more mental health treatment and cannot be hanged till declared fit, officials said yesterday. “Bhullar is undergoing treatment at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) in Dilshad Garden,” the office of his lawyer KTS Tulsi said.

Bhullar was sent to the mental health institute two-and-half years ago, and has since been lodged there. A doctor said he needs more treatment.“Bhullar is undergoing treatment by a panel of five to six doctors,” Rajesh Kumar, one of the doctors treating Bhullar at the IHBAS, said.

“It is not easy to say how much time is required for him to be mentally fit,” he said. Tihar Central Jail spokesman Sunil Gupta said, “As per Indian law, a convict cannot be hanged till he is declared mentally and physically fit.”