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Mercy hearing in open court

New Delhi, Jan. 28: The Supreme Court today agreed to hear death-row convict Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar curative petition in an “open court”.

The plea, filed by his wife Navneet Kaur, will come up on Friday before a four-judge bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices R.M. Lodha, H.L. Dattu and S.J. Mukhopadhyaya. Bhullar is guilty of a 1993 blast on Youth Congress leader Maninder Singh Bitta’s convoy. Over a dozen persons died and the leader lost a leg.

The plea seeks commutation of his sentence to life term on the ground of delay in deciding his mercy plea and because of mental illness.

In an open court, lawyers argue their case in hearings open to all. Curative and review petitions are usually dealt with in the chambers of judges who consult each other and reach a decision, without any lawyers or arguments.

Senior counsel K.T.S. Tulsi, appearing for Navneet, today sought an open hearing citing last week’s instance when a three-judge bench had spared 15 death-row convicts the noose on grounds of delay.

That verdict raised hopes among Bhullar’s family, who have besides his illness argued that the President rejected his mercy plea in 2012 — eight years after it was filed.

Since then, the apex court had dismissed his review plea in April. One of the judges on that bench was Justice Mukhopadhyaya, who will be part of the panel hearing the curative plea on Friday.