Prof. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar: A Brief Case Study

| August 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Case History:

Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar belongs to a well-settled educated family. His father was a Section Officer in Panjab Audit Department and his mother has worked as a Supervisor in Rural Development Department of Panjab. Having completed his Bachelors in Engineering from GuruNanakPolytechnicCollege, Ludhiana in 1990, Mr. Bhullar started to teach in the same college.

On August 29, 1991, the car of Sumedh Singh Saini, then SSP Chandigarh got attacked with a remote control explosion in which the SSP escaped with some minor injuries but his security guards were killed. The Police suspected that Bhullar and some of his friends engineered this attack. Failing to find Bhullar, the law enforcing agency abducted his father and maternal uncle in December 1991 and tortured them to death in its custody.

Sumedh Singh Saini, the then SSP Chandigarh, did the same cruelty with one of Bhullar’s friend, Balvant Singh Multani and his Father Darshan Singh Multani. Panjab Police abducted them and tortured them in the same way.

On September 10, 1993 convoy of then President Youth Congress (I) got attacked killing 9 security personnel. Viewing this car bomb attack with the same eye, Delhi Police concluded that since the pattern of both the attacks was the same, therefore, the same person or group must be behind this act of terrorism.

Davinder Pal Singh who had already seen the tragic end of his father, maternal uncle and his friend and his father, had no choice but to flee from India. He was sure that if he got caught by Delhi or Panjab Police, he would be eliminated in the name of fake Police Encounter. So he decided to migrate from India. When he reached Frankfurt Airport, German authorities detained him with suspicions and after keeping him in their custody for a month, refusing his request for political asylum, deported him and handed him over to India.

Accusation, Confession and Sentence:

Upon reaching Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi, Delhi Police detained Mr. Bhullar and with the accusation of plotting the car bomb attack to kill M.S. Bitta (then President Youth Congress(I)), and tried him under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). The notorious TADA Act allowed the confession made to Police to be used as the evidence against the accused. Section 15 of the Act reads: “(1) of TADA reads as “Notwithstanding anything in the Code or in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, but subject to the provisions of this section, a confession made by a person before a police officer not lower in rank than a Superintendent of Police and recorded by such police officer either in writing or on any mechanical device like cassettes, tapes or sound tracks from out of which sounds or images can be reproduced, shall be admissible in the trial of such person or co-accused, abettor or conspirator for an offence under this Act or rules made there under.”  (http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/document/actandordinances/TADA.HTM )

The Delhi Police later came up with a computer typed confession and claimed that MR. Bhullar volunteered this confession. Although, the Prof. retracted from this confession on the first available opportunity, saying that he was forewarned that deviation from this confession would result in his instant elimination in an encounter but the court, ignoring the fact that Section 15 of TADA was the most controversial law and none of the 133 witnesses, produced by the prosecution, identified Mr. Bhullar. After a long trial of six years, considering his confession (though retracted) declared him guilty and sentenced him to death on August 25, 2001.

Mr. Bhullar filed an appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court but the three judge bench, in a split decision, upheld the verdict of death sentence in its judgment of March 22, 2002. The result of the review petition also remained the same as the same bench heard the petition and the presiding judge, Justice M.B. Shah kept to his verdict saying that Mr. Bhullar can not be considered guilty of conspiracy as the definition of the term requires two or more persons to knit a conspiracy, whereas, others have been acquitted in the case so Mr. Bhullar cannot knit a conspiracy alone. But the other two judges viewed the case altogether with a different eye. They convicted him extraordinarily arguing: proof “beyond reasonable doubt” should be a “guideline, not a fetish.” And that procedure is only “a handmaiden and not the mistress of law”

The Clemency Petition and Rejection:

The last hope of Mr. Bhullar was the clemency petition to the President of the Republic of India, filed on 14 January 2003. Years after years went by but the highest custodian of justice kept the mercy petition in cold storage. In January 2011, a writ petition was filed in the Honorable Supreme Court of India to convert his death sentence into life imprisonment. The honorable court issued a notice to the Union of India. But unfortunately instead of probing into Mr. Bhullar’s current plight which is pathetic enough to convince the Honorable President of the Republic of India to release him or at least convert his death penalty into life imprisonment, the highest judicial authority rejected more than Eight years four months and eleven days old mercy petition on 25th of May 2011 and showed him the way to gallows.

The untiring efforts of human right activists and lawyers did not end even here, they filed a petition against the decision of the president in Supreme Court on two grounds i.e. (a) Mr. Bhullar is bearing the brunt of a crime which he never committed and there is no evidence against him other than his retracted enforced confession and he has borne more than 17 years of unjustified torturous incarceration. (b) Having faced so much torture and around 11 years of solitary confinement, Mr. Bhullar has become a psychic patient.

Unfortunately, yet again the advocates of law failed to convince the custodian of law and on April 17, 2013, the apex court refused to commute or convert Prof. Bhullar’s capital punishment. The decision of their view petition on August 14th also remained the same as the Supreme Court upheld its earlier verdict.

Since August 25, 2001, Mr. Bhullar is heading towards death with every passing moment. Out of 24 hours he spends 22 hours in 7×9 feet Cell Number 2 of Tihar Jail Number 3 New Delhi. Having faced all sorts of physical mental and psychological torture in more than 18years, Mr. Bhullar has become a constant patient. Since January 2011, he is in Mental Hospital at New Delhi. According to doctors, he is suffering from depression, Arthritis and Cervical for Six years and Hypertension for Eight years.

Conclusion

  1. Even a casual study of Prof. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar’s case makes it crystal clear that he was facing some serious threats of being eliminated when he fled to Germany. Article 2 of the Convention on Torture and Arbitrary Arrest, to which the Federal Republic of Germany is a party, states:

“(1) No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

(2) For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.” (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm)

Mr. Bhullar tried his level best to prove that in his country his life was in danger and that his father, maternal uncle and his own friend had fallen prey to the brutality of Panjab Police and he might also be abducted in the same way. Moreover, “the competent authorities” should have taken into account “all relevant considerations including the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights”, which were at their height in 1980s and 1990s in Indian Panjab. Germany could have done what America did with Daya Singh Lahoria, the other accused in Bhullar’s case. Daya Singh fled to America and the U.S Government extradited him after having an undertaking from Indian Government that he would not be tried under the notorious and controversial TADA Act. This is the reason that death penalty has not been imposed on him.

2. United Nations, in the Sixty Second Session of the General Assembly, opted the Resolution 62-149 on the use of death penalty. It calls all the states to abolish the death penalty. (www.un.org/esa/ffd/doha/DohaReviewConferenceFlyer.pdf)

In its Sixty Third Session, the General Assembly reaffirmed its conviction on the abolition of the death penalty.

(www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/…/2009%20GA%203rd%20Committee.pdf)

As an active member of UN, the republic of India must also move forward in this direction. In 1983 the Supreme Court stated in one of its decisions: “the capital punishment should be awarded in rarest of the rare cases.” Thus Mr. Bhullar must be given the benefit of both UN’s resolutions and Supreme Court’s mentioned verdict.

  1. United Nations strongly condemns the death penalty to be imposed on those who are mentally retarded and insane and do not know the cause of their death.

International Resolutions

Year

Excerpt

UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty

1984

“…nor shall the death sentence be carried out… on persons who have become insane.”
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

1997

Governments that continue to use the death penalty “with respect to minors and the mentally ill are particularly called upon to bring their domestic legislation into conformity with international legal standards.”
UN Commission on Human Rights

2000

Urges all states that maintain the death penalty “not to impose it on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder; not to execute any such person.

(http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-mental-illness)

It is believed that nothing needs to be stated as conclusive remarks as the facts speak themselves.

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