NEW DELHI: The three condemned prisoners in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case joined Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, sentenced to death in the 1993 Delhi bomb blast case, in arguing before the Supreme Court that pendency of their mercy pleas for over decade with the President was a good ground for commutation of their capital sentence to life term.
Though the three - Santhan, Arivu and Periarvalan - have moved the Madras High Court against the President's decision to reject their mercy pleas and have secured a stay on their execution, their counsel Ram Jethmalani on Wednesday requested the apex court to permit him to argue in Bhullar's pending case as its outcome would affect the HC decision.
A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya asked Bhullar's counsel K T S Tulsi and additional solicitor general Harin Raval whether they had any objection to Jethmalani arguing in this case and permitted the intervention when both the counsel said they did not have any problem.
The rejection of mercy pleas of Bhullar and the three in Rajiv assassination case has seen unprecedented political activity. While Tamil Nadu assembly passed a resolution requesting commutation of death penalty for the three condemned prisoners, there has been considerable support from the Sikh community for commutation of Bhullar's death penalty to life imprisonment.
Tulsi argued that the government was acting arbitrarily in deciding mercy pleas and cited recently obtained RTI information revealing that in some cases, the mercy pleas were decided the day it was made before the governors and in some cases in two months. "Here is a person who was made to wait on death row for 11 years and reduced to a mental wreck," Tulsi said.
Bhullar, an alleged Khalistan Liberation Force terrorist, was sentenced to death for masterminding the car bomb attack on then Youth Congress president Maninderjit Singh Bitta which left 9 persons dead just a stone's throw away from Parliament on September 10, 1993. The death sentence awarded to Bhullar attained judicial finality when on March 12, 2003, the apex court dismissed his curative petition. Bhullar had filed a mercy plea before the President on January 14, 2003.
Bhullar's wife Navneet Kaur has also filed a petition challenging rejection of mercy plea and said, "My husband has become mentally retarded on account of more than 5,700 days of delay in deciding the mercy petition which has inflicted such inhuman penalty and torture in his mind that he has become mentally retarded."
In response to Bhullar's petition, the Centre in its counter-affidavit said long pendency of mercy pleas of condemned prisoners, some for over a decade, was no ground for altering the decision taken on it by the President in exercise of her constitutional powers.
It said the Constitution prescribed no time frame for the President to decide mercy peas of condemned prisoners and that courts had no power to prescribe a deadline on this issue. "Pendency of the mercy petition cannot be said to be an act of cruelty or an act which adds to the suffering of the prisoner. In fact, it is the pendency of the mercy petition which has given a lease of life to the prisoner," the Centre had said.
Source : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Rajiv-killers-join-Bhullar-to-question-rejection-of-mercy-pleas/articleshow/10674054.cms
Date : 10.11.2011
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