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Monday, March 31, 2014

Devender Pal Singh Bhullar- Death sentence commuted to life imprisonment - due to health conditions of accused and due to delay in disposing mercy petition by president = Navneet Kaur ... Petitioner(s) versus State of NCT of Delhi & Anr. ... Respondent(s)= 2014 (March. Part ) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41363

Devender Pal Singh Bhullar- Death sentence commuted to life imprisonment - due to health conditions of accused and due to delay in disposing mercy petition by president =

Learned Attorney General, taking note of the conclusion  arrived  at  in
Shatrughan Chauhan (supra) wherein this Court held that the ratio laid  down
in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar vs. State (NCT) of Delhi (2013) 6 SCC  195  is
per  incuriam,  fairly  admitted  that  applying  the  said   principle   as
enunciated  in  Shatrughan  Chauhan  (supra),  death  sentence  awarded   to
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar is liable to be commuted  to  life  imprisonment.
We appreciate the rationale stand taken  by  learned  Attorney  General  and
accept the same.
12) In  addition,  it  is  also  brought  to  our  notice  by  letter  dated
08.02.2014, which was received  by  the  Registry  on  12.02.2014  from  the
Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, that the accused  Devender
Pal Singh Bhullar was examined by the Standing Medical Board  on  05.02.2014
and the Board opined as under:
      “1.The  patient  has  been  diagnosed  with  Severe  Depression   with
      Psychotic features (Treatment Refractory Depression) with Hypertension
      with  Dyslipidemia   with   Lumbo-cervical   Spondylosis   with   Mild
      Prostatomegaly.


      2. He is currently receiving  Anti-Depressant,  Anti-Psychotic,  Anti-
      anxiety,  Anti-Hypertensives,  Hypolipedemic,   Anit-Convulsant   (for
      Neuropathic pain) and Antacid  drugs  in  adequate  doses  along  with
      supportive  psychotherapy and physiotherapy.


      3.  Patient  has  shown  partial  and  inconsistent  response  to  the
      treatment  with  significant  fluctuations  in  the  severity  of  his
      clinical condition.


      4.The treatment comprising of various combinations of  pharmacological
      and non-pharmacological treatments  have  brought  about  partial  and
      inconsistent improvement in his clinical condition in the  last  three
      years of hospitalization. The scope for effective treatment options is
      limited and thereby the chances of his recovery remain doubtful in the
      future course of his illness”.


The above report has been signed by the Director & Chairman as well as  four
Members of  the  Medical  Board.   The  report  clearly  shows  that  he  is
suffering from acute mental illness.
13)  The  three-Judge  Bench  in  Shatrughan  Chauhan  (supra)   held   that
insanity/mental  illness/schizophrenia  is  also  one  of  the   supervening
circumstances for commutation of death sentence  to  life  imprisonment.  By
applying  the  principle  enunciated  in  Shatrughan  Chauhan  (supra),  the
accused cannot be executed with the said health condition.
14) In the light of the above discussion and also   in  view  of  the  ratio
laid down in Shatrughan Chauhan (supra), we  deem  it  fit  to  commute  the
death sentence imposed on Devender Pal Singh Bhullar into life  imprisonment
both on the ground of unexplained/inordinate delay of 8  years  in  disposal
of mercy petition and on  the  ground  of  insanity.  To  this  extent,  the
Curative Petition stands allowed.
2014 (March. Part ) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41363
P SATHASIVAM, R.M. LODHA, H.L. DATTU, SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA
                                     REPORTABLE


                IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        INHERENT JURISDICTION


        CURATIVE PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 88 OF 2013
                                       IN
         REVIEW PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 435 OF 2013
                                       IN
           WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 146 OF 2011


Navneet Kaur                                            ... Petitioner(s)

            versus

State of NCT of Delhi & Anr.                            ... Respondent(s)



                              J U D G M E N T


P.Sathasivam, CJI.

1) Navneet Kaur w/o Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, filed the  present  Curative
Petition against the dismissal of Review Petition (Criminal) No.435 of  2013
in Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 146  of  2011  on  13.08.2013,  wherein  she
prayed for setting aside the death sentence imposed upon Devender Pal  Singh
Bhullar by commuting the same to imprisonment for  life  on  the  ground  of
supervening circumstance of delay of 8 years in disposal of mercy  petition.

2) Considering the limited issue involved, there is no need to traverse  all
the factual details. The brief background of the case is: By judgment  dated
25.08.2001, Devender Pal  Singh  Bhullar  was  sentenced  to  death  by  the
Designated Judge, Delhi. Thereafter, he preferred an appeal  being  Criminal
Appeal No. 993 of 2001 before this Court and by judgment  dated  22.03.2002,
this Court confirmed the death sentence and dismissed  his  appeal.  Against
the dismissal of the appeal by this  Court,  the  accused  preferred  Review
Petition (Criminal) No. 497 of 2002, which was also dismissed by this  Court
on 17.12.2002.
3) Soon after the dismissal of the review petition, the accused submitted  a
mercy petition dated 14.01.2003 to the President of India under  Article  72
of the Constitution and prayed for commutation of his sentence.  During  the
pendency of the petition filed under Article  72,  he  also  filed  Curative
Petition (Criminal) No. 5 of 2003 which was also dismissed by this Court  on
12.03.2003.
4) On  30.05.2011,  a  communication  was  sent  from  the  Joint  Secretary
(Judicial) to the Principal Secretary, Home Department,  Government  of  NCT
of Delhi, stating that  the  President  of  India  has  rejected  the  mercy
petition submitted on behalf of Devender Pal Singh  Bhullar.  The  same  was
also communicated to the Superintendent, Central Jail  No.  3,  Tihar  Jail,
New Delhi on 13.06.2011.
5) On 24.06.2011, the wife of the accused (petitioner  herein)  preferred  a
Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 146 of  2011  before  this  Court  praying  for
quashing the communication dated  13.06.2011.  By  order  dated  12.04.2013,
this Court, after examining and analyzing the materials  brought  on  record
by  the  respondents,  arrived  at  the  conclusion  that   there   was   an
unreasonable delay of 8 years in disposal of mercy petition,  which  is  one
of the grounds for commutation of death sentence  to  life  imprisonment  as
per the established judicial precedents. However, this Court  dismissed  the
writ petition on the ground that when the accused is convicted  under  TADA,
there is no question of showing  any  sympathy  or  considering  supervening
circumstances for commutation of death sentence.
6) Aggrieved by the said  dismissal,  the  wife  of  the  accused  preferred
Review Petition being (Criminal) No. 435 of 2013 which  was  also  dismissed
by this  Court  on  13.08.2013.  Subsequently,  the  wife  of  the  accused,
petitioner herein has filed the above Curative  Petition  for  consideration
by this Court.
7) Heard Mr. KTS Tulsi, learned senior counsel appearing on  behalf  of  the
petitioner and Mr.  G.E.  Vahanvati,  learned  Attorney  General  for  India
appearing on behalf of the respondents.
8) Very recently, a three-Judge  Bench  of  this  Court,  in  Writ  Petition
(Criminal) No. 55 of 2013 Etc., titled Shatrughan Chauhan & Anr.  vs.  Union
of India & Ors., 2014 (1) SCALE 437, by  order  dated  21.01.2014,  commuted
the sentence of death imposed on the  petitioners  therein  to  imprisonment
for life which has a crucial bearing for deciding the petition at hand.   In
the aforesaid verdict, this Court validated the  established  principle  and
held that unexplained/unreasonable/inordinate delay  in  disposal  of  mercy
petition is one of the supervening circumstances for  commutation  of  death
sentence to life imprisonment.
9) While deciding the aforesaid issue in the above decision, the  Bench  was
simultaneously called upon to decide  a  specific  issue  viz.,  whether  is
there a rationality in distinguishing between an offence under Indian  Penal
Code, 1860 and Terrorist and  Disruptive  Activities  (Prevention)  Act  for
considering the supervening circumstance for commutation of  death  sentence
to life imprisonment, which was the point of law decided  in  Writ  Petition
(Criminal) No. 146 of 2011.
10) The larger Bench in Shatrughan Chauhan (supra),  after  taking  note  of
various aspects including the constitutional right under Article 21 as  well
as the decision rendered by the Constitution Bench in Triveniben  vs.  State
of Gujarat (1988) 4 SCC 574, held:
      “57) From the analysis of the arguments of both the counsel, we are of
      the view that only delay which could not have been avoided even if the
      matter was proceeded  with  a  sense  of  urgency  or  was  caused  in
      essential preparations for execution of sentence may be  the  relevant
      factors under such petitions in Article 32. Considerations such as the
      gravity of the crime, extraordinary cruelty involved therein  or  some
      horrible consequences for  society  caused  by  the  offence  are  not
      relevant after the Constitution Bench ruled in Bachan Singh vs.  State
      of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 684 that the sentence  of  death  can  only  be
      imposed in the rarest of rare cases. Meaning,  of  course,  all  death
      sentences imposed are impliedly the  most  heinous  and  barbaric  and
      rarest of its kind. The legal effect of the extraordinary depravity of
      the offence exhausts itself when court sentences the person  to  death
      for that offence. Law does  not  prescribe  an  additional  period  of
      imprisonment in addition  to  the  sentence  of  death  for  any  such
      exceptional depravity involved in the offence.


      58) As rightly pointed out by Mr. Ram Jethmalani, it is  open  to  the
      legislature in its wisdom to decide by  enacting  an  appropriate  law
      that a certain  fixed  period  of  imprisonment  in  addition  to  the
      sentence of death can be imposed in some well defined  cases  but  the
      result cannot be  accomplished  by  a  judicial  decision  alone.  The
      unconstitutionality  of  this  additional  incarceration   is   itself
      inexorable and must not be treated as dispensable through  a  judicial
      decision.”


                         ***         ***        ***


      “64) In the light of the same, we are of the view that the ratio  laid
      down in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (supra) is per incuriam.  There  is
      no dispute that in the same decision this Court has accepted the ratio
      enunciated in Triveniben (supra) (Constitution Bench) and  also  noted
      some other judgments following the ratio laid down in those cases that
      unexplained long delay may be one of the grounds  for  commutation  of
      sentence of death into life imprisonment. There is no good  reason  to
      disqualify all TADA cases as a class from relief on account  of  delay
      in execution of death sentence. Each case  requires  consideration  on
      its own facts.”


                         ***         ***        ***

      “70) Taking guidance from the above principles and in the light of the
      ratio enunciated in Triveniben  (Supra),  we  are  of  the  view  that
      unexplained delay is one of the grounds for commutation of sentence of
      death into life imprisonment and the said supervening circumstance  is
      applicable to all types of cases including the  offences  under  TADA.
      The only aspect the Courts have to satisfy is that the delay  must  be
      unreasonable and  unexplained  or  inordinate  at  the  hands  of  the
      executive. The argument of Mr. Luthra, learned ASG that a  distinction
      can be drawn between IPC and non-IPC offences since the nature of  the
      offence is a relevant factor is liable to be rejected at  the  outset.
      In view of our conclusion, we are unable to share the views  expressed
      in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (supra).”


11) Learned Attorney General, taking note of the conclusion  arrived  at  in
Shatrughan Chauhan (supra) wherein this Court held that the ratio laid  down
in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar vs. State (NCT) of Delhi (2013) 6 SCC  195  is
per  incuriam,  fairly  admitted  that  applying  the  said   principle   as
enunciated  in  Shatrughan  Chauhan  (supra),  death  sentence  awarded   to
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar is liable to be commuted  to  life  imprisonment.
We appreciate the rationale stand taken  by  learned  Attorney  General  and
accept the same.
12) In  addition,  it  is  also  brought  to  our  notice  by  letter  dated
08.02.2014, which was received  by  the  Registry  on  12.02.2014  from  the
Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, that the accused  Devender
Pal Singh Bhullar was examined by the Standing Medical Board  on  05.02.2014
and the Board opined as under:
      “1.The  patient  has  been  diagnosed  with  Severe  Depression   with
      Psychotic features (Treatment Refractory Depression) with Hypertension
      with  Dyslipidemia   with   Lumbo-cervical   Spondylosis   with   Mild
      Prostatomegaly.


      2. He is currently receiving  Anti-Depressant,  Anti-Psychotic,  Anti-
      anxiety,  Anti-Hypertensives,  Hypolipedemic,   Anit-Convulsant   (for
      Neuropathic pain) and Antacid  drugs  in  adequate  doses  along  with
      supportive  psychotherapy and physiotherapy.


      3.  Patient  has  shown  partial  and  inconsistent  response  to  the
      treatment  with  significant  fluctuations  in  the  severity  of  his
      clinical condition.


      4.The treatment comprising of various combinations of  pharmacological
      and non-pharmacological treatments  have  brought  about  partial  and
      inconsistent improvement in his clinical condition in the  last  three
      years of hospitalization. The scope for effective treatment options is
      limited and thereby the chances of his recovery remain doubtful in the
      future course of his illness”.


The above report has been signed by the Director & Chairman as well as  four
Members of  the  Medical  Board.   The  report  clearly  shows  that  he  is
suffering from acute mental illness.
13)  The  three-Judge  Bench  in  Shatrughan  Chauhan  (supra)   held   that
insanity/mental  illness/schizophrenia  is  also  one  of  the   supervening
circumstances for commutation of death sentence  to  life  imprisonment.  By
applying  the  principle  enunciated  in  Shatrughan  Chauhan  (supra),  the
accused cannot be executed with the said health condition.
14) In the light of the above discussion and also   in  view  of  the  ratio
laid down in Shatrughan Chauhan (supra), we  deem  it  fit  to  commute  the
death sentence imposed on Devender Pal Singh Bhullar into life  imprisonment
both on the ground of unexplained/inordinate delay of 8  years  in  disposal
of mercy petition and on  the  ground  of  insanity.  To  this  extent,  the
Curative Petition stands allowed.
                      ……………………….…………………………CJI.


                       (P. SATHASIVAM)








                      ………………………….…………………………J.


                       (R. M. LODHA)




                      ………………………….…………………………J.


                       (H.L. DATTU)


                      ………………………….…………………………J.


                      (SUDHANSU JYOTI  MUKHOPADHAYA)


NEW DELHI;
MARCH 31, 2014.
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