File picture of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar
The Supreme Court will today decide whether a delay in deciding a death row prisoner's request for mercy is grounds for commuting the punishment to life in prison.
The court will rule on a case filed by Punjab militant Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, who was convicted of killing nine people with a car bomb in Delhi in 1993. After he was given the death sentence by the Supreme Court, he appealed to the President of India for clemency in 2003. His appeal was rejected in 2011.
The verdict in his case will impact the cases of other death row prisoners like the three men from Tamil Nadu, who were given the death penalty for their role in the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. They say their death penalty should be commuted because the President of the country took 11 years to reject their appeal. They have already spent 22 years in prison.
In February this year, the government executed Afzal Guru in a top-secret operation just days after President Pranab Mukherjee turned down his appeal to commute his death sentence. Guru, who was from Kashmir, had been convicted of helping the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament in which 13 people were killed. Guru's wife had filed a mercy petition on his behalf in 2006.
Guru's family received a letter informing it of the government's plans to execute him two days after he was hanged and buried at Tihar Jail in Delhi. The Supreme Court earlier this month warned against repeating that mistake.
His hanging triggered large protests in Kashmir, and drew sharp criticism from international human rights groups.