The Curious Case of Condemned Devinderpal Singh Bhullar

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Singh, Apr 22, 2013.

  1. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    The Problem of Our Laws


    That Bhullar should hang before Kamal Nath or Jagdish Tytler may not be a travesty of law, but it is a travesty of justice

    In a judgment delivered on 7 February 2013, India’s Supreme Court had clarified that, ‘to award death sentence, the aggravating circumstances (crime test) have to be fully satisfied and there should be no mitigating circumstance (criminal test) favouring the accused. Even if both the tests are satisfied as against the accused, even then the Court has to finally apply the Rarest of Rare Cases test (R-R Test), which depends on the perception of society and not ‘judge-centric’, that is, whether the society will approve the awarding of death sentence to certain types of crime or not. While applying this test, the Court has to look into variety of factors like society’s abhorrence, extreme indignation and antipathy to certain types of crimes like rape and murder of minor girls, especially intellectually challenged minor girls, minor girls with physical disability, old and infirm women with those disabilities etc. Examples are only illustrative and not exhaustive. Courts award death sentence because situation demands, due to constitutional compulsion, reflected by the will of the people, and not judge-centric.’

    The Court’s intent to move away from the subjectivity of sentencing to a more clearly articulated framework is admirable, but the actual framework suggested by the Court is problematic with its unclear reliance on society’s approval and the will of the people. In an accompanying piece, Ranjit Singh Gill has argued that the death penalty awarded to Devinderpal Singh Bhullar does not fit the definition of ‘rarest of rare’. And this week, the Gujarat government has decided to ask for a death sentence for Maya Kodnani, who was sentenced to life for leading a mob that killed 97 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.

    The two cases are a contrast. Despite an acquittal by presiding judge MB Shah, Bhullar was sentenced to death after two other judges argued that proof beyond reasonable doubt should be a guideline, not a fetish. Kodnani, in contrast, was spared the death sentence because the judge in the case, Jyotsna Yagnik, observed that although the death penalty may ‘bring justice’, its use ‘undermines human dignity’. Thus, a death sentence has been awarded in a case that does not seem to merit the definition of rarest of rare while it has been avoided in another where the judge believes it may deliver justice.

    If the death penalty exists in our statute of laws, then Kodnani certainly deserves it, and Bhullar, it can be argued, does not. Even if we go back to what the Supreme Court said about the Court’s need ‘to look into variety of factors like society’s abhorrence, extreme indignation and antipathy to certain types of crimes,’ the terror inflicted by the acts that Bhullar was accused of was certainly no more than the terror inflicted by Kodnani.

    Kodnani’s case is yet to come up before the Supreme Court, but a similar case did. Kishori Lal, the ‘butcher of Trilokpuri’, had been sentenced to death on seven different counts by lower courts for his role in the 1984 massacre of Sikhs. A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court that commuted these to a life sentence noted that ‘the acts attributed to the mob of which the appellant was a member at the relevant time cannot be stated to be a result of any organised systematic activity leading to genocide. Perhaps, we can visualise that to the extent there was unlawful assembly and to the extent that the mob wanted to teach stern lesson to the sikhs, there was some organisation; but in that design, they did not consider that women and children should be annihilated, which is a redeeming feature.’

    Surely, the claim that the stern lesson taught by murdering Sikh men is somewhat redeemed by the decision to spare women and children (an erroneous claim) is questionable. Given such a diversity of views on crimes of comparable magnitude, the Supreme Court’s clarification on the death sentence is pointless.

    As an aside, going beyond the Supreme Court, it follows from these cases that our system of justice has much to answer for. One of the two judges making the observation in the Kishori Lal judgment was Justice GT Nanavati, who was later picked to head a commission to look into the 1984 massacres. The words quoted above suggest that his conclusion that ‘there is absolutely no evidence suggesting that Shri Rajiv Gandhi or any other high ranking Congress (I) leader had suggested to organised attacks on Sikhs’ was pre-determined.

    Is it then any surprise when we learn that 30 years after 1984, the trial of a high-ranking Congressman such as Jagdish Tytler is only just recommencing? Or that the possibility of a case against Kamal Nath (who was at the head of a mob that burnt two Sikhs to death and was witness to their agony over several hours as they lay dying) does not seem likely? That Bhullar should hang before Kamal Nath or Tytler may not be a travesty of law, but it is a travesty of justice.

    The Problem of Our Laws | OPEN Magazine
     
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  3. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Uncertain Guilt


    Devinderpal Singh Bhullar has been sentenced to death despite a split verdict in the Supreme Court and a case that doesn’t quite add up to certain guilt. Twenty years of fighting the charges against him have robbed him of his sanity. Will India stand by and let a sick man hang?

    The Indian Supreme Court decision rejecting Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s plea is hard to understand. Consider the background: his father Balwant Singh, a government employee, his uncle Manjit Singh and a cousin were picked up for questioning by the police in 1991 in front of several witnesses who are ready to testify to this fact. But Balwant Singh and Manjit Singh are still considered missing by the police after they ‘disappeared’ in 1991. The cousin, who saw Balwant Singh in illegal custody, had to have a leg amputated after torture by the police. Even Devinderpal Singh’s father-in-law, also a government employee, was picked up and tortured.

    All this happened after Bhullar, a professor of mechanical engineering in Ludhiana’s Guru Nanak Engineering College, was said by the police to be connected to a remote-controlled bomb attack on the vehicle of SSP Sumedh Singh Saini, who is now DGP of Punjab. He was acquitted by the court, but the subsequent killing of his family members forced him to go underground to escape the same fate.

    On 11 September 1993, the cavalcade of then Youth Congress President MS Bitta was hit by a remote-controlled blast, leaving 12 people dead. The Delhi Police believed the blast was similar to the attack against Saini. Despite the fact that the courts had found nothing to connect Bhullar to the original blast, Delhi cops began to look for Bhullar, who was finally caught a year later in Frankfurt. He was deported to India in January 1995 to face trial, and was awarded a death sentence. In 2011, after Bhullar’s mercy plea was turned down by the Indian President, the European Union wrote to the Indian Government saying that the German government’s decision to deport Bhullar was wrong, as German law bars the government from deporting any individual, no matter the charges against him, to any state where torture and capital punishment exist. In fact, two years after Bhullar was sent back to India, an administrative court in Frankfurt ruled that the government’s decision was incorrect. Does it not seem strange that two Italian marines who shot dead Indian fishermen in cold blood can be given assurances that they won’t hang, but an Indian citizen, against whom the charges are by no means so clear, will not benefit under the same legal paradigm?

    The case against Bhullar is based on a confession obtained from him in police custody. Bhullar appealed the decision of the lower court, and in 2003 the Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence by a split verdict. The presiding judge acquitted Bhullar, but the other two judges confirmed the sentence. This was the first time anyone has been awarded a death sentence by a split verdict. His subsequent review petitions and mercy petition too were rejected in 2011. This may seem like due process, but consider what it actually means.

    The presiding Supreme Court judge MB Shah had acquitted Bhullar because his complicity was based entirely on his own confession to the police, who failed to corroborate his statement even after he had retracted it. Independent witnesses produced by the prosecution contradicted Bhullar’s confession statement. Consider-ing that considerable logistics and planning go into a blast of the magnitude that Bhullar is charged with organising, this is either an indication that the confession was coerced, or that the Delhi Police is so incompetent that even with the main perpetrator of the crime admitting to the offence, it is unable to establish the linkages that led to the blast. If the only remaining possibility is that of coercion, anyone familiar with police methods in India will readily concede that almost anyone will confess to almost anything to avoid the kind of barbaric treatment that is the norm in any police station.

    Though he was awarded the death sentence in 2003, his review petition was rejected only in 2006, and it took another five years for his mercy petition to be turned down. The agony of an endless wait took a toll on his mind, and for the last two years he has been in a mental hospital in Delhi. This was the basis for the petition filed before the Supreme Court in 2011, pleading that the inordinate delay in deciding on his mercy plea and his present mental sickness exempt him from being hanged as, in a civilised world, no mentally sick man is hanged. The director of the mental institute where Bhullar is admitted testified that he is suffering from acute depression and is not feigning his mental illness. He also testified that Bhullar was under heavy medication. Last week, the Supreme Court chose to confirm his sentence and clear the ground for carrying it out, and it now appears that this country could end up hanging a man who is mentally sick.

    The two-judge bench that heard the plea bypassed a 1989 five-judge constitutional bench judgment, which observed that an inordinate delay resulting in mental worry is grounds for seeking the conversion of a death sentence to life imprisonment. Bhullar’s lawyer KTS Tulsi says it is hard to comprehend the awarding of a death penalty in this case as any civilised society believes there shouldn’t be a shred of doubt before someone is hanged, and in this case the verdict was split. If one judge exonerated Bhullar, clearly there must have been some doubt. And if it is a question of the nature of the crime, people accused and convicted of crimes more heinous than what Bhullar is charged with have had their death sentences commuted. Kishori Lal, one of the accused in the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi, was awarded death sentences in at least five different cases, all of which were commuted to life by the Supreme Court.

    Taken together, Supreme Court decisions should impact society not only in a manner that conveys the possibility of justice under the letter of the law, but also in a way that is consistent and understandable to most people. But understanding and debate should not just be restricted to the law, they should also take into consideration the reasons why so many men like Deviderpal Singh Bhullar took up arms in the first place.

    +++

    Ranjit Singh ‘Kuki’ Gill, son of Khem Singh Gill, former Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, was studying for a Masters in Plant Breeding and Genetics at PAU when he was charged with the murder of Congress politician Lalit Maken and his wife Geetanjali soon after the 1984 massacres in Delhi. He escaped to the US, where he spent 13 years in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. In May 2000, Gill and his companion, fellow inmate Sukhwinder Singh, relinquished their appeals to remain in the US of their own volition and opted to return to India. Early in 2009, the lengthy trial concluded by reaffirming the life sentence. But finally, almost 25 years after the event, his sentence was commuted by the Chief Minister of Delhi after the intervention of Maken’s daughter Avantika

    Uncertain Guilt | OPEN Magazine
     
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  4. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    There is no respect for an ordinary citizen in India. The Indian Police System still carries the same dadagiri attitude it was so used to under the British Empire. You better listen to the cops, or else, you are royally screwed. Those that are influential, get scot-free. Yet, we are so quick to tag people when they pick up arms. When will the 'system,' from the administration, and all other paraphernalia that come with it, have some thought for human dignity? Perhaps I am seeing everything from a very American point of view, where the cop addresses the accused as "Sir."

    Mr. @sayareakd, remember how we were discussing history-sheeters the other day. Do you think there is a huge scope of improvement in the way our police system works?
     
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  5. GPM

    GPM Tihar Jail Banned

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    Has Bhullar's guilt been proved? YES. Was he awarded death sentence? YES.

    Now, what is this hair splitting about split verdict? The SC bench is not jury, or is it? Or Singh matters?
     
  6. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    ^^^ yeah huge scope for improvment in system specially with respect to police reform. An Investigative Officer can secrew your life if you are accused wrongly or rightly. I have seen them taking sides doing all sorts off stupid things and even no investigation at. all.

    As far case in hand is concern by thinking is that all terror attacks where human life is lost death sentance is must.
     
  7. GPM

    GPM Tihar Jail Banned

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    Our system is flawed. Trial gave death, HC confirmed it and SC upheld. Now review, another review, and now a new thing thing: protest petition.

    Then mercy, again review of mercy. There has to be a well defined point beyond which no more petition would be entertained UNLESS a major evidence has come up.
     
  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    What is the legal status of a split verdict?

    So, Kamal Nath too was there?

    Great!

    Are there no photographic evidence?

    The saving grace for the Congress is that it was not the days of private TV channels and so it never got the publicity that other events have got!
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013
  9. GPM

    GPM Tihar Jail Banned

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    Were both these despicables too guilty in this. Were they too a part of conspiracy? @Singh may please clarify.


    The cases are different. In any case Kodnani case verdictb is being appealed by state govt. So rest in peacse. Anyway why are you mixing different cases?

    Kodnani deserves death, you say, even final verdict is far off. And Bhullar should be acquitted you say.

    I suspect the difference is Singh in the name.

    Finally the cat is out of bag. Plea for Bhullar is mixed up with his being a Sikh.
    @Singh, please clarify your position on this issue. Is Bhullar being a Sikh is not in your mind? Is is a real and material factor? Be honest and clear.
     
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  10. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    And I have interacted with you well enough @GPM. I am aware of the tragedy in your life, and I regret that. Let that not prejudice your judgement.

    There are two sides to a coin. Do you think justice has been delivered equitably? Why this dragging of feet w.r.t. Tytler, may I ask?
     
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  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Dhananjay Bhattacharjee was hung for violating a girl. And the girl was a non Bengali.

    I had no reservation or remorse that Dhananjay swung.

    I don't think it is correct to equate a discussion on justice or otherwise with a community or religion of a poster.

    The little that I know of Singh, I would be surprised if he were communal.

    To the best of my knowledge, he isn't communal.
     
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  12. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    ,

    I posted so that members can discuss this topic. I didn't see this topic being discussed on this board, whereas it is being hotly debated in the news.

    I have not written this articles. You are welcome to your views as to why I have posted them. :lol:
     
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  13. Sunder singh

    Sunder singh Regular Member

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    @Ray these days we constantly find that people of certain believe or religion come out against judicial decisions. May it Kasab, afzal, or killers of Rajiv gandhi or now this Bhullar.
    I think let judiciary decide otherwise every criminal or perpetrator will think he will save after doing crime
     
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  14. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Dhananjay Chatterjee was a Hindu Brahmin, who was hanged.
    @Ray Sir, it was Chatterjee. :)

     
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  15. Sunder singh

    Sunder singh Regular Member

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    Ya I know what I mean is these days
     
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  16. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Thanks.

    I get confused with the Banner, Chatters, Mukhers, who add jee at the end! :rofl:

    And then I have had Sunderjee also from the Regiment.

    And then chaps in the Army say, Yes siree!

    Tooo many jees and so the confusion is natural, what?
     
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  17. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    Majority rules in split verdict, normally it is either one way or the other in Division bench. If split verdict then majority verdict is taken.
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Indeed, that is how it appears.

    We are getting segmetised.

    This votebank nonsense has not united us, but has highlighted our differences and divided us wherein many think in compartmentalised sentiments instead of thinking as Indians.

    But still, there are those who are struggling hard to think that we are One!
     
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  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Thanks.

    Let us see how the case goes.

    I like Gural's (SAD) statement where he did not condone the crime, but was worried about the law and order situation that might erupt!

    He did not hedge about why the case is emotive, even if justice appears to have been done.

    I like the honest approach.
     
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  20. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    All the Upadhyays were changed to Jees. :lol:
     
  21. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    However, when treating a case as rarest of the rare, there is a split verdict should the maximum punishment be awarded then ?

    And Mr. Bal raised a pertinent point in his article (the first post) what is the criteria for treating a case as rarest of the rare ?
     

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