‘Rejection of Bhullar’s plea could affect 17 more’

New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) Amnesty India Friday said that dismissal of the plea of 1993 Delhi bomb blast convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar could affect cases of at least 17 more prisoners on death row and appealed for abolition of capital punishment.

Bhullar was sentenced to death in August 2001 for his involvement in a bomb attack in New Delhi in 1993 that killed nine people. He had challenged before the Supreme Court the president’s decision to reject his mercy plea, seeking commutation of his death sentence on the grounds of inordinate delay in its consideration.

The Khalistani militant had challenged the constitutionality of his prolonged stay on death row and the plea was rejected by the apex court Friday.

“The Supreme Court of India rejected the commutation plea of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar on April 12. This verdict could affect the cases of at least 17 more prisoners,” a statement issued by Amnesty India said.

The decision will pave the way for his hanging and is likely to have an impact on 17 other convicts on the death row, including those held guilty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected four mercy petitions involving seven people (Ajmal Kasab, Saibanna, Afzal Guru, Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah, and Bilavendran), and has commuted one death sentence (Atbir).

“In the past five months, India has executed two of these individuals: Ajmal Kasab on Nov 21, 2012, and Afzal Guru on Feb 9, 2013. Prior to these, the last execution in India had been that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee in August 2004,” the release said.

It called upon people to petition the president, the prime minister and the home minister and call upon them not to execute Bhullar, to remove him from death row immediately, and “retry his case in proceedings that comply with international fair trial standards”.

The Amnesty called for an immediate halt to further executions, commuting of all death sentences to terms of imprisonment and an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Bhullar was arrested at the New Delhi airport in January 1995 under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA).

Amnesty India said the Supreme Court upheld Bhullar’s death sentence in March 2002 and one of the three judges on the bench had found him not guilty.

“A review petition was dismissed by the same Supreme Court judges, again by a 2 to 1 majority, in December 2002,” it said and added that Bhullar has been receiving treatment at a psychiatric facility in New Delhi since 2011.

It said the president rejected Bhullar’s mercy petition in May 2011, eight years after the request was filed.

The release said the UN Commission on Human Rights has called upon all states that retain the death penalty “not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any mental or intellectual disabilities or to execute any such person”.

Amnesty India claimed that execution of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru was carried out in a clandestine manner and public was not informed of the date of execution.

“In Afzal Guru’s case, his family received notification of the execution after it had been carried out and his body was not returned for burial,” it said.

Amnesty said 140 countries in the world were abolitionist about death penalty in law or in practice.

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