Ottawa (April 19, 2013): The World Sikh Organization of Canada has sent urgent correspondence to Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, German Ambassador to Canada, Werner Wnendt and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding the case of Prof. Davinderpal Singh Bhullar, calling for their intervention to halt his imminent execution.
The Supreme Court of India recently rejected Prof. Bhullar’s commutation plea.
Prof. Bhullar is an Indian national who applied for asylum in Germany in 1994 but was deported back to India where he was sentenced to death in 2001. The German courts have recognized that his deportation was due to procedural errors and was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Upon his return to India, Prof. Bhullar was sentenced to death in August 2001 for “plotting terror attacks”. An appeal to the Supreme Court of India in 2002 was unsuccessful. Prof. Bhullar’s conviction was based upon an alleged confession made in police custody which he claims was extracted under torture and which he subsequently retracted. None of the 133 prosecution witnesses identified Prof. Bhullar. Justice MB Shah, the senior justice of the three panel bench which heard his appeal at the Indian Supreme Court acquitted him while the remaining two judges confirmed his conviction and sentenced him to death. A second defendant in the case was acquitted because the only evidence in the case was Prof. Bhullar's confession.
Pointing out the grave procedural errors in Prof. Bhullar’s conviction, WSO President Prem Singh Vinning stated in his correspondence to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird,
“Shockingly, even the prosecutor in Prof. Bhullar’s case, Anoop G. Chaudhari, now believes the death sentence was “inappropriate” and has stated to the Times of India, "[s]urprising as it may sound, I believe that Shah was right in not accepting my submissions in support of the trial court's decision to convict Bhullar in a terror case, entirely on the basis of his confessional statement to the police."
There is a Canadian connection to this case. Prof. Bhullar’s wife, Navneet Kaur Bhullar is a Canadian citizen and has watcher her husband’s health slowly decline as he languished in solitary confinement for ten years. Prof. Bhullar now suffers from severe depression, hypertension and arthritis due to being held in a small 7x9 ft cell. For the past two years he has been lodged in a psychiatric facility.
With the recent decision by the Indian Supreme Court, it appears Prof. Bhullar’s execution is imminent. In recent months, the Government of India has executed two individuals, ending an eight year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty. The WSO stands against the death penalty as a violation of basic human rights and has called on India to establish a moratorium on executions in accordance with the UN’s Commission on Human Rights resolution of 1999.
We request that the Canadian government, in conjunction with the European Union and German authorities make a final attempt to save the life of Prof. Bhullar and request India to stop his execution.”
Other points to note in Prof. Bhullar's conviction are:
- Prof. Bhullar was examined by a police assigned medical doctor. Although a highly educated man, Prof. Bhullar’s medical examination document is co-signed by him by a thumb print.
- The two judges who supported the conviction stated that the principle of “beyond reasonable doubt” should be a “guideline, not a fetish.” They went on to state that procedure is only “a handmaiden and not the mistress of law.”
- Justice Shah in his dissent went on to say that Prof. Bhullar could not be found guilty of conspiracy as this would require by definition that he conspired with another and as others named in the confession statement were acquitted, it would impossible for him to conspire with himself. He was also not convinced by the authenticity of the confession. Contrary to procedure, the confession was neither handwritten nor recorded but typed on a computer on which it was not saved.
- In Indian jurisprudence a sentence of death is not awarded where the court’s decision is split.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.