‘We are warning govt. that people are emotional ... we might have to pay a price"

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sought clemency for Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, whose plea for commutation of the death sentence was dismissed by the Supreme Court last week.

Noting that Bhullar’s execution could lead to law and order problems in Punjab and other places, Mr. Badal told journalists here that he had urged Dr. Singh to find a way out. “I have the experience of how much the country has lost due to incorrect decisions. In the interest of the State, in the interest of the country, we are asking to stop it [execution],” Mr. Badal said. He was accompanied by his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Asserting that sending Bhullar to the gallows would send a “wrong message” across the country, the Chief Minister said: “What we need most is peace and harmony. If it [execution] affects peace and harmony, it will become an emotive issue. We are warning the government that people are emotional … we might have to pay a price for it.”

He also cited the poor health condition of Bhullar — convicted of carrying out a bomb attack outside the Youth Congress office in Delhi in 1993 in which nine people were killed. “What will they gain by hanging him?”

“National interest”

A memorandum submitted by Mr. Parkash Singh Badal on behalf of the Shiromani Akali Dal said: “The process must be started for finding ways to ensure that the ends of justice do not clash with the long-term interests of the nation ... In the overall national interest and in the interest of peace and communal harmony in the country in general and in Punjab in particular, the death penalty may be commuted to life imprisonment. There is a legal and constitutional requirement for putting the [death penalty] case beyond all reasonable doubt. This was clearly not done in the case of Bhullar.”

Seeking “statesman-like intervention” by the Prime Minister, the memorandum said: “While we are deeply committed to maintaining peace and communal harmony in the State, the governments have no control over the emotional and psychological damage that such a case can inflict on the collective social psyche. This damage must be avoided at all costs.”

Meets Shinde

Later, the Chief Minister met Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and cited the split verdict of the Supreme Court as ground for granting Bhullar clemency. He pointed out that even Germany, from where Bhullar was extradited, had opposed the death sentence.

Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal said: “Bhullar has spent long years in jail and his mental and physical condition is well-known. He has been ailing for over two years as per the statement of his doctor … we have conveyed this to the government that the execution cannot be carried out in these conditions.”