The decision of the Indian Supreme Court to reject Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar’s plea for relief from the gallows is hard to understand. The decision has been awaited for a long time and has many deep ramifications for Davinderpal’s wife and his whole family who have already suffered for too long a period. His father Balwant Singh, a Government employee and an uncle, Manjit Singh are missing, considered dead, after being picked up by State Police in 1991 in front of many villagers who are ready to testify to this. A cousin who was released after being taken in for questioning on the same occasion is today handicapped as his leg had to be amputated after severe torture. Davinderpal’s father-in-law, a Government employee who too was tortured and picked up many times by State Police is now bed ridden in Canada where he went to save himself. Many other members of the Bhullar family and their acquaintances were harassed from time to time during the troubled years in Punjab in the late 1980 s and early 1990s.
Davinderpal was an engineer by profession and a Professor at Ludhiana Engineering College until 1991. He had only been married to Navneet Kaur, a nurse who now lives in Canada, for a brief time before he fled all that he knew and became a rebel. The politically charged atmosphere in Punjab forced many Sikh youths at that time to do the same. His name was linked to a blast attack on the then Chandigarh Police Chief Sumedh Saini, now DGP of Punjab Police, but during the trial Davinderpal was acquitted by the Court. He left for Germany in 1994, but was arrested upon arrival at the airport and was eventually deported to India to face trial in the present case for which he has been given the death sentence.
The European Union of which Germany is a part, wrote to the Indian Government in 2011 when Davinderpal Singh Bhullar’s mercy plea was turned down by the Indian President. They stated that the decision of the German Government to deport him was wrong as German law bars such actions upon any individual to a State where torture and the death penalty exist, no matter what the charges are. An Administrative Court in Frankfurt ruled that the deportation was erroneous following a plea put forward by sympathisers.
During custody in India, Davinderpal was tortured and signed a confession that was admissible in Court as he had been charged under the TADA Act. Despite being the sole piece of evidence against him, he was found guilty. Alarmingly, no witnesses corroborated the State’s case during the trial and even the Policeman who witnessed the confession did not vouch for it’s authenticity when brought before the Court. Davinderpal appealed the decision of the Lower Court in the Supreme Court who confirmed his death sentence in 2003 by a split verdict. The presiding judge completely acquitted Davinderpal Singh Bhullar, but the remaining two judges confirmed his death sentence. Never before has anyone been awarded a death sentence in a split verdict decision, but subsequent review petitions and a mercy petition too were rejected by 2011.
The agony of endless waiting took a toll on his mind and for the last two years he has been in a mental hospital in Delhi. The final petition was filed before the Supreme Court in 2011 pleading that the delay in his mercy plea decision and his present mental sickness bars him from being hanged – in a civilised world no mentally sick man should be hanged. But the honourable Indian Supreme Court judges didn’t agree, confirming his sentence and clearing the ground for carrying out his hanging, overruling an earlier Constitutional Bench judgement of 1989. The eminent senior lawyer of the Supreme Court who represents Davinderpal Singh Bhullar, Mr Tulsi says that it is hard to comprehend and understand how the death penalty has been upheld in a case where the accused has been exonerated by one of the judges. The decision of the Supreme Court is inconsistent with the way other convicted individuals have been treated including those who were unequivocally guilty of the most heinous crimes.
Around the World, Sikhs wait to hear of what next for Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar.