What about rights of security personnel killed, asks Justice Singhvi

Death row convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, whose mercy petition has been rejected by President Pratibha Patil, is now suffering from mental illness and could not be executed, senior counsel K.T.S. Tulsi argued in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Ground of delay

Quoting judgments of the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Tulsi submitted before a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya that the execution of a mentally ill person would be unconstitutional. Both Bhullar and his wife had filed writ petitions for commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in the disposal of his mercy petition, and these petitions are heard together.

Bhullar was sentenced to death by a designated TADA Court on August 25, 2001, for his role in the September 10, 1993 bomb blast in Delhi that targeted the cavalcade of the then All-India Youth Congress president, Maninderjit Singh Bitta. Mr. Bitta escaped with serious injuries, but nine security personnel were killed and 27 injured. Mr. Tulsi said Bhullar was admitted to the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences. He produced a medical report issued by doctors on September 2, 2011, to back his contention that Bhullar was mentally depressed and ill.

Split verdict

When Justice Mukhopadhaya wanted to know the distinction between a “mentally retarded” person and a “mentally ill” person, Mr. Tulsi said that at the time of the incident, Bhullar was of sound mind but later he became a mentally ill person, and he was not mentally retarded. He argued that the death penalty should be awarded only by a Constitution Bench, and there should be no death penalty in case of a split verdict, as had happened in his case.