Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has met President Pranab Mukherjee seeking clemency for death row Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar. However, the Centre said the case was still under study.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Thursday said the Punjab Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister had met him and handed over a memorandum. ‘’They have given the same memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the President. Their representation is under consideration.” Badal, who met Pranab, said, “We requested the President to pardon Bhullar for the sake of hard-earned communal harmony and peace in Punjab and the rest of India. There are other technical points, and according to law when somebody is seriously sick, he should not be hanged. For the last two-and-a-half years, he has been very sick.”
Badal had earlier met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday. They are using the plea that the Supreme Court judgement was a split decision and said even Germany which extradited Bhullar had opposed death sentence.
The matter is on the verge of snowballing into a major issue in Punjab, as political parties are trying to use the issue to their advantage. While the Akali Dal-led Punjab Government has taken lead in openly demanding clemency for the convict, the principal opposition Congress too has been asking the Centre to take a sympathetic view. Sources said former chief minister Amarinder Singh has met Congress president Sonia Gandhi explaining the ground situation. Amarinder had been vocal in demanding clemency for Bhullar even in the past. Amarinder is learnt to have told Gandhi that death for Bhullar could turn people against the Congress in the next elections.
This issue had put the Congress-led UPA Government in a quandary. It hanged Kashimiri militant Afzal Guru, and if it goes on to save Bhular, it would be accused of playing politics, and particularly of targeting Muslims. However, Bhullar’s medical condition could give the UPA Government a credible ground to consider his case. The Delhi Government has already set up medical board to study his mental state.
The Supreme Court had last week rejected a petition by Bhullar seeking commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment as his mercy plea had not been decided by the President for a long time.
Bhullar was given capital punishment for the September 10, 1993, blast at the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) office in Delhi that left nine people dead and 17 others injured.