Grant Clemency to Death Penalty Victim Devender Pal Singh Bhullar
- 1.The Hon’ble President of India 2.The Hon’ble Home Minister of India.
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar was sentenced to DEATH by the designated court of Delhi on 25th Aug 2001 and is at present 46 years. After completing his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from Guru Nanak engineering College Ludhiana, in 1990, Bhullar started teaching in the same college and taught for more than a year. He belonged to a well settled educated family and his father was Section Officer in Punjab Audit Department and his mother was working as Supervisor in Rural Development Department of Punjab.
On 29th Aug 1991 an incident took place in the city of Chandigarh, where an attempt was made to kill the then SSP of the city, Sumedh Singh Saini and his car was hit by a remote controlled explosion and some of his security guards were killed. The Chandigarh police suspected that Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and his friends were behind the attack. When they could not find Devender Pal Singh, they abducted his father and his maternal uncle in December 1991 and they were tortured to death in police custody.( The CBI has now in the year 2008 registered a case against Sumedh Singh Saini IPS and his associate police officers for this crime on the orders of the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh).The whole family of his was harassed by the police. An Engineer friend of Bhullar namely Balwant Singh Multani, whose father Darshan Singh Multani was a serving Indian administrative Service officer of Punjab was also abducted during the same time and detained in Chandigarh police custody by Sumedh Singh Saini, the said IPS officer and was also tortured to death( Punjab police made a story of his escape from police custody in Punjab, however the said theory has been disbelieved by the CBI in its enquiry on the basis of which CBI has registered a case under Section 364 of Indian penal Code ie. “Kidnapping or Abducting in order to murder” and other relevant offences).
On 10th Sept 1993 an incident took place in Delhi, where the car cavalcade of the then president of youth congress namely Maninderjit Singh Bitta was attacked by a remote controlled blast in which 9 security men got killed. The police of Chandigarh and Punjab were already looking for Devender Pal Singh Bhullar due to the Chandigarh blast incident and the police thought that the Delhi incident also had the same pattern of blast and so the Delhi police also starting looking for Bhullar.
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar although innocent, but fearing elimination by the police through Torture or Fake encounter with the police in order to save his life, under a fictitious name decided to go to Canada and while he was in transit at Frankfurt airport of Germany, was taken in custody on the basis of suspicion and after remaining in custody with German authorities for 1 month was ordered to be deported to India. Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar was handed over to the Indian Authorities at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi on 19.1.1995.
Upon reaching India, he was arrested and charged with carrying forged passport and false documents punishable under sections 419, 420, 468 and 471 of IPC and section 12 of Passport Act. During the police remand he was denied access to his Lawyer or relatives and he under duress was forced to make a confession before DCP, Delhi, on the basis of which he was booked in the case relating to a car bomb blast which took place in New Delhi in 1993, relating to the attempt to assassinate Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, the then President of All India Youth Congress(I). Although Bitta escaped with minor injuries, some of his guards and associates died. It was alleged that the act was committed by four persons who were named as accused in the case. Besides, Bhullar, Daya Singh Lahoria and two other persons were named in the case. Bhullar was convicted on the sole basis of his confession before the police, which was admissible as evidence under the special Law ie. Terrorist & Disruptive Activities Prevention Act, where as his co-accused who was also tried along with him ie. Daya Singh Lahoria was acquitted by the trial Court for lack of evidence, as the said confessional statement could not be read against him, since he was extradited from U.S and the U.S authorities at the time of his extradition had obtained an undertaking from the Indian authorities that Daya Singh would not be tried under the TADA, special Law. So since in offences tried under the Indian Penal Code, the confession statements made before the police officers are not admissible as evidence, Daya Singh Lahoria was acquitted on the same charges, in the same trial, where as Devender Pal Singh Bhullar was convicted.
Mr. Bhullar was tried by the designated court-I, Delhi, under TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act). He faced the trial for six years. He was sentenced to Death by the Designated judge, Delhi on 25 Aug 2001, simply on the basis of his alleged confession recorded by a Deputy Police Commissioner during the police remand, which was recanted by Bhullar at the very first opportunity as that was obtained by coercion and torture. The prosecution miserably failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and failed to produce any reliable witnesses. There was no eye-witness in the case, nor did anybody identify Devender Pal Singh as the person who planted the bomb in the car. Simply the police officials who recorded the confession were produced by the prosecution and the trial court convicted the accused purely on the basis of that confession.
It is essential mention over here that in the case relating to the Bomb blast in which Sumedh Singh Saini IPS officer of Punjab, who was in 1991 on deputation as SSP Chandigarh, Devender Pal Singh Bhullar was acquitted of his charges by the Designate court of Chandigarh on 1st Dec 2006, as the prosecution could not produce any evidence worthwhile for convicting Bhullar.
By convicting Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and awarding Death Sentence on the basis of the said confession, the trial court as well as Supreme Court not only committed a grave error of law, but also diverted itself from the usual practice and procedure laid down in other judgments under TADA. The confirmation of capital punishment upon Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and subsequent dismissal of his review petition by the Supreme Court vide the judgment dated 22.3.2002 and 19.12.2002, by a three judge bench of the Supreme Court of India, comprising, Mr.Justice M.B.Shah, Mr.Justice B.N. Aggarwal and Justice Arijit Pasayat in a case under TADA and there after dismissal of the review petition as well as curative petition by the same bench is grave injustice.
After Dismissal of his curative petition on 19th Dec 2002, the mercy petition of Bhullar is pending with the President of India since 14th Jan 2003. More than 6 years & 6 months have passed and Devender pal Singh Bhullar’s mercy petition is still lying undecided. Bhullar has faced slow death each day. As per the Doctors reports he is suffering from Depression since 4 Years, Hypertension since 6 Years and Arthritis and Cervical since 4 years. Out of the total 24 Hours of a day he spends almost 22 hours in his 7 x 9 feet cell, suffering a slow death as a condemned prisoner in the special cell No- 2 of Tihar jail No - 3 , New Delhi since 25th Aug 2001,ie. the day of his conviction.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has held through its landmark judgment titled Smt. Triveniben Vs State of Gujarat, as reported in AIR 1989 SC PAGE 1335, held as under:-
“Constitution of India, Articles 32 and 21 - Death sentence awarded by court - Undue delay in execution of death sentence - It entitles the condemned prisoner under Article 32 of Constitution of India to approach court that his death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment - No fixed period of delay, however, could be fixed to make the death sentence in-executable - The delay which could be considered to make the death sentence in-executable starts from the date the judgment by apex court is pronounced i.e. when judicial process has come to an end - The delay which is to be considered is the delay in disposal of mercy petitions or delays occurring at the instance of the Executive”.
The case of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar is worthy of sympathetic consideration by the Hon’ble President Of India and Bhullar deserves a compassionate approach by being granted clemency and conversion of his Death Sentence to Life Imprisonment on the ratio of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court also.
ARGUMENTS SEEKING CLEMENCY:-
1. Because, the most important point which cannot be lost sight of, is that the senior most judge of the bench, Justice M.B. Shah acquitted the accused of all the charges vide a dissenting judgment. But the two judges, Justice B.N. Aggarwal and Justice Arijit Pasayat passed the majority judgment and after confirming the death sentence, erred in bringing the present case within the ambit of “rarest of rare case”. The view taken by the court is absolutely irrational because of the non availability of corroborative evidence to prove a ‘defective’ confession. In one word, the judgment is erroneous and it has resulted in blatant violation of fundamental right of the accused to have a fair and impartial trial.
2. Because, the reasoning of the apex court that “proof beyond reasonable doubt should be a guideline, not a fetish”, is contrary to the basic principle of criminal jurisprudence that the prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and any flaw or loose string may give benefit of doubt to the accused. The view taken by the court that procedure is only “a handmaiden and not the mistress of law” sounds to cover up the failures of prosecution case. No person having knowledge of criminal law can appreciate such a view. Another important question of law arose that when the co-accused Daya Singh Lahoria, named and alleged to have played an active role in the commission offence, in the confessional statement has been acquitted by the trial court, how the person who allegedly made the ‘defective’ confession can be convicted ? Can a statement be read in parts? Mr. Justice M. B. Shah rightly held that “the police failed to corroborate the confessional statement Devender Pal Singh Bhullar”, which is said to have made before them, this despite the fact that the accused retracted that statement and the independent witnesses produced by the police contradicted the confessional statement ascribed to the accused. Moreover, the police, in contravention of the law, failed to send the confessional statement at the earliest opportunity to the magistrate concerned.”
3. Because, the fact that there was no eye-witness or direct evidence to connect the accused with the crime except the ‘confession’, allegedly made by the accused to the police officer and that too not produced before the magistrate with due diligence, deserved benefit of doubt in favour of the accused.
4. Because, imposition of death penalty is a violation of fundamental human rights of life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. Both these rights are recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), other international and regional human rights instruments. Article 6(2) of the ICCPR states , “In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes.”
5. Because, the alleged attempt to assassinate Maninderjit Singh Bitta cannot be called a ‘terrorist act” as per Section 3 of the TADA Act, 1987. If at all it was committed, it was a criminal offence with intention to kill a particular person and not to create terror in the society, thus provisions of TADA have been wrongly applied in the present case.
In the premises, we, the undersigned, seek clemency for Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and request that International community may kindly impress upon the Hon’ble President of India to kindly grant clemency to Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and convert his death sentence to Life Imprisonment in exercise of her constitutional powers.
The Grant Clemency to Death Penalty Victim Devender Pal Singh Bhullar petition to 1.The Hon’ble President of India 2.The Hon’ble Home Minister of India. was written by Lawyers For Human Rights International and is in the category Justice at GoPetition.