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'Rejection of Bhullar's plea could affect 17 more'

Friday April 12, 2013 11:11:43 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Amnesty International India Friday said that the 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 in the Supreme Court the president's decision to reject his mercy plea, and sought 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 International 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.

It said President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected 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".

Amnesty International India 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 International 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 two to one 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 International 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.

The Asian Centre of Human Rights (ACHR) said that the government will have to execute 20 convicts whose mercy petitions had been rejected over the past decade.

Suhas Chakma, director of (ACHR), said that the Supreme Court had rejected delay as a ground for commutation.

"In the light of judgment in Bhullar's case, the government will have to execute 20 people whose mercy petitions had been rejected," he said.

He said that the Ministry of Home Affairs had informed on an RTI query that as on March 28, 2013, nine mercy petitions were pending before the president.

Chakma said the president had April 3 rejected mercy pleas in five cases while commuting death sentences in two cases.

The Supreme Court April 6 stayed the execution of eight death row convicts whose mercy petitions were rejected by the President.



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