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India Supreme Court upholds death penalty for convicted terrorist

The Supreme Court of India [official website] on Sunday upheld a death penalty sentence against Devinderpal Singh Bhullar [PTI backgrounder], a convicted terrorist. This ruling allows the Indian government to continue a trend toward use of execution that began in November after a de facto moratorium on its use since 2004. The government had a policy beginning in 2004 of only using the death penalty in extremely rare cases [Sydney Morning Herald report], which led to its not being used at all until last year. Bhullar was convicted of planting a bomb in 1993 which killed nine people and injured 25 in New Delhi, and the court ruled that this met the criteria of being an extremely rare case which warranted use of the death penalty. He will be the third prisoner to be executed since the moratorium ended.

India's return to use of the death penalty has been controversial. In February Afzal Guru, who was convicted of participation in an attack on India's parliament in 2001, became the second prisoner to be executed [JURIST report] since its end. Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving shooter in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive], became the first in November [JURIST report]. The country's high court had upheld his sentence in August, despite concerns that he had not received a fair trial [JURIST reports]. Amnesty International [advocacy website] had urged the government to stop his execution [JURIST report] months earlier, stating that it would cause India to move backward in a trend toward abolition of the death penalty.

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