New Delhi: Press Council of India (PCI) chairperson Justice Markandey Katju has written to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking pardon for Devender Pal Singh Bhullar who has been awarded death sentence in connection with the 1993 Delhi bomb blast case. Katju's letter comes close on the heels of a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court rejecting the plea of Bhullar, a Khalistani terrorist and death row convict Bhullar in a judgement that paves the way for his execution.
Katju said that Bhullar has been in detention since his arrival in India in January 1995 i.e. over 18 years and added that he had suffered prolonged mental agony and trauma for this long period in death row with a Damocles' sword hanging over his head. Assigning reasons behind his plea, Katju said Supreme Court had earlier rejected Bhullar's appeal against his death sentence by a 2-1 majority, not by a unanimous decision and added that the senior most judge on the bench Justice MB Shah had acquitted Bhullar.
Katju said that he had perused the judgement of Justice Shah who had noticed that the only evidence against Bhullar is his alleged confessional statement to the investigating office. Justice Shah has observed that "when the rest of the accused who are named in the confessional statement are not convicted or tried, this was not a fit case for convicting the appellant solely on the basis of the so called confessional statement recorded by the police officer", Katju wrote.
He added that Justice Shah noticed in his judgement that there was nothing on record to corroborate the aforesaid alleged confessional statement. Katju's letter said that when rest of the accused who are named in the confessional statement are not convicted or tried, this would not be a fit case for convicting the appellant solely on the basis of so-called confessional statement recorded by the police officer.
Katju said that the majority view of the bench has to be accepted as the judgement of the court but added that the considerations under Article 72/161 of the Constitution were different from those in judicial proceeding. Katju said that Bhullar had been having some chronic psychiatric problem and sought pardon for him.
Katju said that in its judgement of 2002 by a 2-1 majority, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence to Bhullar. Thereafter, the appeal for mercy under Article 72 Constitution of India was rejected.
He then filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the order rejecting his mercy petition on the ground of delay in the proceeding but that petition was rejected by the Supreme Court yesterday. Katju said that he was appealing as there is nothing in Article 72 Constitution of India to debar a second mercy petition if the first has been rejected.