The Supreme Court will deliver on Friday a verdict whether the death sentence of a condemned prisoner can be commuted to life imprisonment on the grounds of delay in executing capital punishment.

A Bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhyay is also expected to pass an order on an NGO’s plea for fixing a time frame for dealing with mercy petitions.

The verdict might have a bearing on a number of petitions filed by other condemned prisoners including death-row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case seeking commutation to life imprisonment.

The Bench had on April 19 last year reserved order on the issue, on a plea by Khalistan Liberation Force terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s family that his capital punishment be commuted as there was “inordinate” delay in deciding his mercy plea and as he was not mentally sound.

It was submitted that prolonged incarceration of a convict awaiting his/her execution amounted to cruelty and violated the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Bhullar was awarded the death penalty for triggering a bomb blast here in September, 1993, killing nine people.

The Supreme Court had on March 26, 2002 dismissed Bhullar’s appeal against the death sentence awarded by trial court and endorsed by the Delhi High Court.

His review petition was also dismissed on December 17, 2002. Bhullar then moved a curative petition which too was rejected on March 12, 2003.

Bhullar, meanwhile, filed a mercy petition before the President on January 14, 2003. The President dismissed his mercy plea on May 25 last.