Indian court stands by judgement on commuting death row to life term; there’s still hope for Surrey woman

Published: March 12, 2014
Surrey BC

Indian Sikhs hold photographs of Devinderpal Singh Bhullar during a protest march to the Presidential palace in New Delhi on April 19, 2013. RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

VANCOUVER DESI and IANS

There’s still hope for a Surrey woman who’s been fighting for justice for her mentally ill husband who became unstable after being in solitary confinement on death row in India for more than a decade.

While the country’s government called for a review of the Jan. 21 ruling, India’s Supreme Court announced Wednesday it stands by its decision that delays in mercy plea decisions and mental illness are grounds for transferring a death sentence to life imprisonment.

The husband of Surrey’s Navneet Kaur, Devinderpal Singh Bhullar — who’s been imprisoned in India for more than 20 years because of his alleged involvement in a 1993 car bombing in Delhi that killed nine people — fits both criteria.

Bhullar was imprisoned in 1994, but wasn’t sentenced to death until nearly a decade later in 2001. He spent 10 years in solitary confinement, which resulted in his mental instability and subsequent transfer to a psychiatric facility.

While Kaur was unable to reach by phone Wednesday, in a January interview with Vancouver Desi, she said she’s spent the last 20 years watching her husband’s health slowly decline as she’s travelled from Surrey to India to visit him in prison.  According to Kaur, Bhullar no longer recognizes her. She’s spent the better part of two decades filing petitions and sitting through endless trials hoping to prove her husband’s innocence to no avail.

The Jan. 21 ruling was a glimmer of hope for Kaur, as the court commuted the death sentence of 15 convicts – with 13 cases based on delays and two on mental illness.

Bhullar’s mercy plea will finally go before the courts in India on March 10.

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