India court rejects plea to commute death penalty

Family members of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar in Bathinda, Punjab, on 12 April 2013
Image caption Family members of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar break down after Friday's court verdict

India's Supreme Court has rejected a petition by a death row prisoner to commute his sentence to life in jail.

The petition was filed by Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar on the basis that there had been "an inordinate delay" in deciding his mercy plea.

He has been on death row since August 2001 for a 1993 attack in Delhi which killed nine. His plea, filed in 2002, was denied by the president in 2011.

The landmark ruling is likely to have a bearing on several other similar cases.

There are 17 prisoners on death row whose mercy pleas have been rejected.

Three convicts on death row for the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and four associates of the notorious bandit Veerappan have also approached the Supreme Court to commute their death sentences on similar grounds.

Until recently, executions were rarely carried out in India, but in the last few months, India has carried out two hangings.

Mohammed Ajmal Qasab, the sole surviving attacker from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was executed in November in a prison in the western city of Pune.

And in February, a Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru, was sentenced to death for the 2001 attack on India's parliament, was hanged in Delhi's Tihar jail.

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