Terrorist Bhullar Will Not Hang, Says SC

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Separatist camp says their stand vindicated

SRINAGAR: A Sikh militant convicted for a car bombing in Delhi more than two decades ago will not hang, the Supreme Court ruled today, reducing his punishment to a life sentence.

Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s wife had petitioned the court to stop his execution because he allegedly developed mental illness while languishing on death row and because of a long delay in deciding his appeal for clemency.

Bhullar was sentenced to death in 2001 for masterminding a bombing in Delhi which killed nine people. The attack targeted Maninderjit Singh Bitta, a leader of the Congress and a critic of militant separatists. Bitta survived the attack.

Bhullar filed a clemency petition in 2003 but it was rejected eight years later by President Pratibha Patil.

Last week, the union government told the top court that it has “no problem” with the 49-year-old being spared the death sentence.

In January this year, the Supreme Court stopped the 15 death row prisoners on the grounds that “inordinate and inexplicable” delays in hanging are grounds for reducing the penalty.

 While commuting the death sentences in January, the Supreme Court had also said that mental illness such as schizophrenia and the use of solitary confinement could make a convict eligible for a reduced sentence.

The judges handling Mr Bhullar’s case had said that verdict could impact his case.

Expressing strong resentment over the Supreme Court judgement on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his mercy petition and that he suffered from Schizophrenia, Kashmir’s separatist leadership Monday stated that the judgement vindicates their stand that New Delhi was in hurry to hang Guru.

“This is a clear double standard- this has exposed India’s judicial system and the tall claims of justice and fair play. The reality is that two yard sticks are being adopted when a Kashmiri Muslim is concerned,” said Hurriyat Conference (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Mirwaiz added that the earlier the death sentence of the assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was commuted into life imprisonment and now terror convict Bhullar has been sentenced for life imprisonment. “This can be asked that why then Afzal Guru was hanged.”

Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Mohammad Yasin Malik said that the “double standards have exposed bias of judiciary against the people of Kashmir. “Even the court judgment stated that there was no direct involvement of Guru in parliament attack but to satisfy the collective conscience of India, he was hanged mercilessly at Tihar.”

The Hurriyat Conference (G) led by Syed Ali Geelani remarked that the stand of the pro-freedom camp has been vindicated by the Supreme Court itself. “We have been saying time and again that people of Kashmir cannot expect justice from India’s judicial system- now that has been proved and world must know how much we are being tormented at large.” 

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