“As a human being and as death-row convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s doctor, my conscience does not allow me to clear this person to be hanged. He is not mentally fit to be medically cleared for hanging,” Dr. Nimesh G. Desai, who heads the team of doctors looking after Bhullar at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), has said.
Bhullar has been under treatment at the IHBAS for the past two years for depression and psychotic disorder.
Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. Desai said: “Additionally for the past two weeks or so Bhullar has been completely incoherent and hallucinating.”
Now with “rumours” of Bhullar’s hanging gaining momentum, the doctor admitted that he was having sleepless nights. “The angst of sending my patient … a man, who is mentally not well, to the gallows is disturbing.”
Dr. Desai said, “Though I understand that we are talking about a man who is guilty of killing nine people in a bomb blast in Delhi in 1993, that does not reduce the moral dilemma of his doctors. Morally, ethically, it is clear that society ought not to execute the death sentence for someone who is unwell physically or psychologically.”
Medicines and counselling could only “assist” in the mental well-being of a person. Bhullar’s mental condition had not improved “beyond a certain limit, mainly because of the legal reality and situation staring him in the face. Generally, all health problems and especially mental health problems, including depression, benefits most if the combined effects of medicines and the psychological therapies like counselling can be combined meaningfully. In cases like Bhullar’s that is actually quite difficult.”
The doctor said, “My colleagues have run into an impasse with him and that has actually also prolonged his recovery inordinately and his stay in the hospital has been long, which is very rare. In the team discussions, we have often gone over this and reconciled somewhat to the internationally well known pattern in these kinds of cases.”
Dr. Desai also confirmed that no court of law had thus far sought the opinion of the doctors at the IHBAS on Bhullar’s medical condition. “The fact that no medical board has been sought or ordered till date makes it extremely difficult for us. I should like to refrain from saying anything specific on this case and the fitness for execution or the likelihood of recovery, but I surely hope wiser counsel will prevail in all circles concerned and an approach which is legally sound and ethically correct will be arrived at through a consultative process of a medical board assessment.”
Senior government officials said a medical clearance might be required in Bhullar’s case before shifting him out of the IHBAS.